Thursday, October 4, 2012

They Died in September, Part I

As mentioned in the entry for the Short Film of the Month, September 2012, perhaps the most popular regular feature we do here at A Wasted Life are the RIP career reviews of figures of filmic interest who have gone into irreversible, permanent retirement. And though those entries are fun to research, they also require a lot of work – in fact, they are almost Sisyphean, which is why we are considering retiring the feature.
But one drunken night of revelry, we decided that if we are to do so, we should do so with a bang – and thus, here you have the first in a seven-part series of They Died in September, our look at all those "retirees" of the month that we (and possibly only we) found of interest when we heard of their trip to the other side.
One day you, too, are going to die... but the following people, both known and unknown, have beaten you to it. (Darn.) Will you leave half as much behind, or have you a wasted life? 
In any event, may they all rest in peace – and you, too, when the time comes.
And in their honor, a poem we learned as a child:
"The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
the worms play penuckle on your snout,
they eat your eyes, they eat your nose
they eat the goo between your toes...
So don't you laugh when a hearse goes by
because you may be the next die:
they wrap you up in big white sheet
and then they drop you six feet deep..."

Lina Canalejas
29 January 1932 – 01 September 2012
Born Concepción Álvarez Canalejas in Madrid, where she also died, Lina Canalejas was the sister of Spanish actor José Canalejas (seen in the background of A Fistful of Dollars [1964 / trailer], Django [1966 / trailer], Horror Express [1972 / full film / trailer] and Return of the Evil Dead [1973 / trailer], among other films). Having studied ballet, she joined a touring folk dance company before taking to the stage as an actress and, eventually, moving onto the silver screen where she appeared regularly for the next 25 years.
Lina Canalejas singing Zumba from La viudita naviera (1962):

Labios rojos
(1960, Jess Franco)
Aka Red Lips. Lina Canalejas is in an early Franco film that he remade in various forms many times throughout his long career. The synopsis, according to the blogspot Films of Jess Franco: "Lola (Ana Castor) and Mari, known as Red Lips, are two young and crazy girls engaged in capturing criminals, secretly helping the commissioner of the city, known only by the notes they leave behind signed with a lipstick kiss. When a diamond is stolen from a European millionaire called Kallman, he hires Red Lips to take it back. According to Kallman the diamond is in the hands of the wicked Radek (Félix Dafauce), who is demanding a substantial ransom for its return. Mari follows Radek to a hotel, where she seduces him and leaves with the diamond, leaving behind a note with her usual signature. When Mari leaves the room, a mysterious man enters and kills Radek. Red Lips soon discover they have been victims of a trap, that the diamond is a fake and are accused by the police of robbery and murder. The commissioner still believes in them and allows them to continue investigating the case, which leads to a nightclub where, posing as exotic dancers, they discover the true Kallman and Paul, the guy who killed Radek. At the club, Red Lips mix with Kallman's cronies and Paul, but everything is complicated. Lola seems to fall in love with Paul, Mari distracts Kallman. At the last moment, the commissioner intervenes, saving and retrieving the diamond and thanking Red Lips." Lina Canalejas is there somewhere.

Strange Voyage
(1964, dir. Fernando Fernán Gómez)
Original Spanish title: El extraño viaje. Wikipedia points out that though the film "was a huge flop on its limited release. It was voted seventh best Spanish film by professionals and critics in 1996 [...]." As an added attraction, Jess Franco in a lead role. Synopsis at imdb by Babalú: "Paquita (Rafaela Aparicio) and her brother Venancio (Jesus Franco), both single and childish, live in a small town near Madrid. Their bossy eldest sister Ignacia (Tota Alba), also an old maid, dominates them. One night, Paquita hears her sister tell somebody about her intention to sell all the family wealth. Once the money is gathered, she wishes to travel to Paris with the mysterious person and get rid of her brother and sister. Terrified, Paquita and Venancio confront their sister's aggressions and kill her accidentally." Lina Canalejas is there as "Beatriz Lópe."
First 10 minutes
La banda de los tres crisantemos
(1970, dir Ignacio F. Iquino)

A period gangster film starring Dean Reed – which explains why it never went to the US in any shape or form – directed by the prolific director of dozens of forgotten Eurowesterns. Die Besten Horrofilme says: "This film takes place in 1930s USA, where the Chrysanthemum Gang robs banks with great brutality. Witnesses and police officers are shot dead without mercy. When some of the gang is injured, it's off to a brothel, where the men have fun and the women are mistreated and forced to have sex. What's more, the local sheriff is the father of the three Olinger brothers [who lead the gang], so there is also still a father-son conflict in addition to sex and violence. And the good sister is also in love with her brother and wants to remain with him despite all the crimes and dirty deeds – well, yes, you know that love blinds. The film lives only by its violence and bawdy erotic. The film doesn't have much to offer in terms of content, and is quite long in parts, so it's really not surprising that this film is been almost forgotten."
A German trailer:

Dark Habits
(1983, dir. Pedro Almodóvar)
Spanish title: Entre tinieblas. Lina Canalejas plays Sister Víbora in this early Almodóvar black comedy, his first film to receive serious funding from outside sources and also one of the few he has supposedly since distanced himself from, claiming that to get the financing he had to make artistic sacrifices (like casting Cristina Sánchez Pascual, the main squeeze of the man producing the movie, in the lead role). The film got a lot of flak for being anti-Catholic, and also got praise for its serious critique of formal religion. At the Chicago Reader, Jonathan Rosenbaum says: "On its face this 1984 comedy by Pedro Almodovar ought to be one of his most irreverent: Yolanda (Cristina S. Pascual), a junkie and nightclub singer, runs to a convent to escape a murder rap, where the freewheeling nuns – who favor such things as LSD and soft-core porn – try to save her soul. Unfortunately, the results are rather limp as narrative, and the better moments never quite make up for the sluggish filmmaking."

Ira Marvin 
22 January 1929 – 1 September 2012
Ira Marvin died at the age of age 83 on Saturday, September 1st at UCLA Medical Center in Westwood CA. A former Vice President of the Directors Guild of America, Marvin's career as a producer spanned all the way back into the 1950s.

Killer's Kiss 
(1955, dir. Stanley Kubrick)
Marvin is "production manager" for Kubrick's second "feature-length" film – it actually runs 67 minutes, which is more in tune with a second feature than a feature film – way back when Kubrick was still doing on-the-sly low budget productions of original scripts; hereafter, all films were based on previously existing sources (i.e., novels or short stories) and the budgets began to grow, as did the familiarity of the names of the actors involved. Plot, according to Leon Wolters at imdb: "Prize-fighter Davy Gordon (Jamie Smith) intervenes when private dancer Gloria Price (Irene Kane) is being attacked by her employer and lover Vincent Raphello (Frank Silvera). This brings the two together and they get involved with each other, which displeases Raphello. He sends men out to kill Davy, but they instead kill his friend. Gloria is soon kidnapped by Raphello and his men, and it is up to Davy to save her." Frank Silvera, by the way, accidentally electrocuted himself in his kitchen on June 11, 1970 while trying to repair a garbage disposal.

Dreams Don't Die
(1982, dir. Roger Young)
Graffiti art was a big thing in the 80s, so a TV movie had to be made – and this is it, taking place on the mean streets of NYC. Ira Marvin was the producer, and the graffiti was by the real-life graffiti artist Dondi (Donald Joseph White), who died of AIDS on October 2, 1998. Vintage Shack says: "A story set in modern day New York about two youngsters, the fatherless graffiti tagger ('King65') Danny (Ike Eisenmann) and drug dealer Teresa (Trini), who are coupled together by a police officer (Paul Winfield). Together they try to improve the youngsters' lives and get rid of a local drug lord (James Broderick). [...] A watered-down version of the hip hop cult classic Wild Style (1983 / trailer)." The last statement is not quiet 100% correct, seeing that Wild Style was released a year after Dream Don't Die was aired.
Dreams Don't Die – 1984 ABC Wednesday Night Movie intro:

The Demon Murder Case
(1983, dir. William Hale)
Ira Marvin is only one step from Kevin Bacon! Marvin was the supervising producer of this TV horror flick that Bacon appeared in (he's in the clip below) "based on a true story," as everyone points out. The events, according to Wikipedia: "The 'Demon Murder Trial' is the first known court case in the United States of a lawyer claiming his client was innocent due to demonic possession. It involved the conviction, on November 24, 1981, of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, a resident of Brookfield, Connecticut, for first-degree manslaughter of his landlord Alan Bono. In the year leading up to the attack on Bono, Johnson had been staying with his fiancée, whose younger brother supposedly had been possessed by demons and whose family called in the self-described demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. Johnson supposedly taunted and was possessed by demons from the boy, and several months later killed his landlord during a heated conversation. His defense lawyer tried to argue in court that he was possessed, but the judge ruled that no such defense existed, and Johnson served 5 years of a 10 to 20 year sentence. The trial attracted media attention from around the world."

Deep Family Secrets
(1997, dir. Arthur Allan Seidelman)
Ira Marvin produces a TV movie directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman. Deep Family Secrets originally aired April 15, 1997. The plot, according to "Country-western singer JoAnne Chadway (Molly Gross) is distraught when her mother Renee (Angie Dickinson) disappears – and even more so since the disappearance occurred amidst bitter domestic strife with JoAnne's powerful attorney father Clay Chadway (Richard Crenna). When Clay inevitably becomes a suspect in Renee's possible murder, JoAnne embarks upon her own private investigation to ferret out the truth. What she discovers is horrifying – not so much because of what she now knows, but because of what she never knew before about her parents." Supposedly "inspired by actual events", we were unable to locate any video material online, so instead we present the trailer to Arthur Allan Seidelman's directorial debut and one true directorial masterpiece:
 Hercules in New York (1969):

Ottó Foky
15 June 1927 – 03 September 2012
Hungarian animator Ottó Foky died at the age of 85 on September 3, 2012. Unknown in the West, he was primarily active doing stop motion shorts for children's TV. Some, like The Apple Thieves, were more cross-generation in nature. See: A Wasted Life's Short Film of the Month for September 2012.

Michael Clarke Duncan
10 December 1957 – 3 September 2012
54-year-old Afro-American actor with a memorable presence. A former body guard and bouncer (among other things), Duncan was 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 270 to 315 (depending on what the role called for). He entered hospital on July 13, 2012, suffering a heart attack from which he never recovered.

Back in Business
(1997, dir. Philippe Mora)
Duncan's first screen credit, he is seen as a big guard for a few seconds in this film by the director of The Beast Within (1982 / trailer). It's a start. Synopsis at Amazon: "Brian Bosworth is a maverick ex-cop out to sanitize a dirty police department in this hard-hitting action film."

Caught Up
(1998, dir. Darin Scott)
Duncan gets a bit more time in this contemporary Blaxploitation "film noir," but he still hardly catches your eye. Director Darin Scott took 11 years to make his next film, the horror film Dark House (2009 / trailer). At Amazon, Paula Nechak says: "[Caught Up] tosses everything – including the kitchen sink – into this noir rip-off that borrows liberally from Chinatown (1974 / trailer) and Bound (1996 / trailer) but lacks the intelligent gravity and grace of the former and the stylish, tongue-in-cheek fun of the latter. [...] Caught Up has laughable dialogue and terrible bug-eyed over-emoting that tries to pass for acting and wastes the laconic beauty of One False Move (1992 / trailer) costar Cynda Williams, who plays a femme fatale named Vanessa Dietrich (honest!). Vanessa wraps Darryl (Bokeem Woodbine) around her little finger and embroils him in a voodoo-esque drug plot that will have the viewer rolling on the floor in disbelief. Had Caught Up played its convoluted plot for laughs, it may have at least been a camp parody on the genre, but as it is, it doesn't avoid a single cinematic cliché. [...] Caught Up is a goofy mess of contradictions and implausibility."
German trailer:

(1998, dir. Michael Bay)
The sci-fi comedy in which Duncan first gained some notice, even if most white folks probably mistook him for Ving Rhames. We here at A Wasted Life really enjoyed this comedy, which had us rolling in the aisles.

 Cats & Dogs
(2001, dir. Lawrence Guterman)
OK, we admit it – we saw it and enjoyed it. Duncan supplies his voice somewhere in this kiddy film. Plot: Evil cats out to take over the world (sorta) versus dogs spies.

Planet of the Apes
(2001, dir. Tim Burton)
OK, we admit it – we saw it and, like everyone else, hated it. Burton's satire of a sci-fi adventure film fails despite great art direction by being too much like the real thing for the satire to be noticed. Or at least, that's what we think went wrong – it could be that he was making the real thing and only made it badly. Unbelievably enough, the flick didn't lose money. Plot – who the fuck cares? Lousy film.

The Scorpion King
(2002, dir. Chuck Russell)
The début of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as the leading actor in a prequel to a sequel and a revisionary remake, 1999's Mummy, of a classic film, Mummy  [1932 / trailer]. None of the films of this modern franchise really have all that much in common with the original Karlof film or any of its sequels or other remakes, such as The Mummy (1959). Don't The Rock just look delicious, despite his haircut? Duncan has a good-sized part as the tribal leader Balthazar in a film directed by the man who made the remake of The Blob (1988), which is actually a better film than this one is.

(2003, dir. Mark Steven Johnson)
Crappy film, but Duncan did good as the bad guy Kingpin, revisioned as an Afro-American in this otherwise relatively unnoteworthy adaptation of the Marvel superhero icon. 

(2004, dir. Angela Robinson)
"A killer comedy" and lez-positive flick that guys like us here at A Wasted Life would've enjoyed a lot more had it been made in the 70s as an R-rated Roger Corman production – then it would have been truly entertaining instead of just cute and fun. DVD description: "Sultry crime boss Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster) is back in the states and the D.E.B.S. – an elite team of paramilitary college co-ed superspies – are hot on her trail. But when their top agent, gorgeous Amy Bradshaw (Sara Foster), mysteriously disappears after coming face to face with the attractive young villainess, the D.E.B.S. begin a full-scale search for Lucy's secret lair, never suspecting that Amy may not want to be rescued after all [...]."

Sin City
(2005, dir. Frank Miller & Robert Rodriguez)
Who didn't appear in this great film? Co-director Frank Miller, who's lost a few brain cells since 9/11, followed this with the fiasco known as The Spirit (2008 / trailer), while Robert Rodriguez followed it with Planet Terror (2007 / trailer). So which one is the real filmmaker?

(2007, dir. Anthony Hopkins)
Not the sci-fi film of the same name from 2005, but the labor of love and ego stroke from Anthony Hopkins – who wrote it, composed the music for it, directed it and starred in it – that the few people who saw it neither liked nor understood.

American Crude
(2008, dir. Craig Sheffer)
The feature-length directorial debut of Craig Sheffer, who appeared in such fun stuff as Nightbreed (1990 / trailer), Hellraiser: Inferno (2010 / trailer) and Flying Virus (2001), all films that more people have seen than this fun film. The plot, according to DVD Sleuth: "American Crude introduces us to several different characters. Johnny (Ron Livingston) is a lawyer who is married to Jane (Cynthia Watros). They have a fairly stable marriage, but she wants kids and he doesn't. They are friends with Bill (Rob Schneider) and Olivia (Amanda Detmer), who are engaged, but often fight. The film takes place on the night of Bill and Olivia's bachelor and bachelorette parties, respectively. Meanwhile, Carlos (Jennifer Esposito), along with her boyfriend, Spinks (Michael Clarke Duncan), plans to get revenge on a man who once assaulted her. When Mr. Grand (Raymond J. Barry) isn't caring for his wheelchair bound wife, Mrs. Grand (Nancy Marlow), he likes to lure women to his apartment to make amateur porn. Gigi (Missi Pyle), a prostitute, is preparing for a night on the job. Tammy (Sarah Foret) is a country girl who has run away from home. Before the night is over, the lives of these characters will mingle in ways that they never imagined."

Redemption Road
(2010, dir. Mario Van Peebles)
Aka Black, White & Blues. We here at A Wasted Life probably wouldn't even mention this film if it weren't directed by Mario Van Peebles, the son of Melvin Van Peebles, who made that Blaxploitation masterpiece Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971). Redemption Road is said to be an unconventional and clever road movie with fascinating characters and told with visual verve, according to the few who saw it.

The Sibling
(2011, dir. Matt Orlando)
Maybe aka Resurrection. The directorial debut of Matt Orlando and Duncan's only true horror film. Starring Devon Sawa, of Idle Hands (1999), and some unknown named Mischa Barton, the film has yet to be released. Plot, according to Wikipedia: "Set during a single day and night at a high school, Jessie (Barton), a guidance counselor, Addison (Duncan), the school principal and local police officer, Travis (Sawa) are the central characters of a 'whodunit' as murder sweeps the school." The film seems to lost in limbo somewhere.

Victoria Fyodorova
18 January 1946 – 5 September 2012
A Russian film actress possibly more famous for her life than her acting. She was born in Moscow to Zoya Fyodorova (1909 -1981), a Russian actress, the progeny of a brief affair with Admiral Jackson Tate (1898 - 1978), a deputy attaché stationed in Moscow, whom Joseph Stalin had expelled from Moscow. Stalin, angered that a well-known Soviet actress would have such an affair, then had Zoya Fyodorova arrested and shipped to Siberia. Within the year, Victoria was born; she lived with her aunt in Kazakhstan until she was 8 years old, when her mother was released after Stalin's death. She eventually made her way to the USA and found her father, eventually followed by her mother. Victoria Fyodorova story is told in her 1979 autobiography, The Admiral's Daughter.

Crime and Punishment
(1970, dir. Lev Kulidzhanov)
In Russian: Prestuplenie i nakazanie – Victoria Fyodorova plays "Avdotya Romanovna." The plot, as supplied by at imdb: "Raskolnikov (Georgi Taratorkin), an impoverished ex-law student, kills an old pawnbroker and her sister, perhaps for money, perhaps to prove a theory about being above the law. He comes to police attention through normal procedures (he was the victim's client), but his outbursts make him the prime suspect of the clever Porfiry (Innokenti Smoktunovsky). Meanwhile, life swirls around Raskolnikov: his mother and sister come to the city followed by two older men seeking his sister's hand; he meets a drunken clerk who is then killed in a traffic accident, and he falls in love with the man's daughter, Sonia (Tatyana Bedova), a young prostitute. She urges him to confess, promising to follow him to Siberia. Will he accept responsibility?"
The double murder:

(1985, dir. Arthur Penn)
Victoria Fyodorova has a part in this Hollywood thriller as "Lise," the woman of Gene Hackman's past. A complicated film that should be more interesting than it is. The plot, according to DVD Talk: "Hackman plays Walter Lloyd, a mild-mannered suburban nobody with a lovely wife and a well-adjusted teenage son named Chris (Matt Dillon). But when Mrs. Lloyd (Gayle Hunnicutt) goes missing while visiting Paris, Walter and Chris head overseas to see what's going on. Turns out that Mrs. Lloyd has been kidnapped by some mysterious villains ... and also that Walter used to be a spy for the CIA. Needless to say, this causes Chris quite a lot of stress."

Christian Marin
8 February 1929 – 5 September 2012
Born in Lyon, Christian Marin was a French film actor who appeared primarily in comedies, including eight with one of the unfunniest comedian ever, Louis de Funès.

Rita Cadillac singing to a stone-faced Christian Marin on some French TV show (1969):

Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez
(1964, dir. Jean Girault)
Louis de Funès is one of the reasons we here at A Wasted Life have such a low opinion of French comedies. But many of them, including this one, were a hit when they came out and some people even speak fondly, if not positively, of them...

 Le Gendarme à New York
(1965, dir. Jean Girault)
The sequel to Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez. Gag, choke, spit.

Compartiment tueurs
(1965, dir. Costa-Gavras)

Music to:
Based on a novel by Sébastien Japrisot, for the English-language dub the movie was retitled The Sleeping Car Murder. It is the feature-length directorial début of Costa-Gavras, a director better known for heavy, intelligent left-leaning political dramas and thrillers. Here, he has made a well-made and stylistically assured – if occasionally long – precursor of the Italian giallo thriller, complete with a black-leather-gloved killer. Leonard Maltin explains: "Quick-paced, atmospheric police-chasing-mad-killer movie." Too flesh out the details: Various people who shared an overnight compartment on a train in which a woman is found dead are subsequently killed one by one. Christian Marin has a brief appearance somewhere in a film that everyone who has seen it makes a point of saying how lousy the dubbing is...
First 10 minutes in French:

The Story of a Three-Day Pass
(1968, dir. Melvin Van Peebles)
French title: La permission. Christian Marin appears as an hotelier in the directorial début of Melvin Van Peebles, who went on three years later to literally create "Blaxploitation" with his angry masterpiece Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971). TV Guide says: "An impressive first feature from Melvin Van Peebles has a black American soldier (Harry Baird of Sapphire [1959]) stationed in France and visiting Paris on a three-day pass. He meets and falls for a French girl (Nicole Berger), and together they spend his last two days living a poetically romantic existence. Upon his return, he is demoted by his captain for having dated a white girl. The film is a moving and brutally honest achievement from Van Peebles, who moved to Paris after living in San Francisco, Mexico, and Holland. He started in Paris (without knowing the language) as an author, eventually writing in French and becoming eligible for admission to the French Cinema Center as a director. He then applied for a grant and received $70,000 after expecting no more than $10,000. With a completed film, Van Peebles went back to the US as a French filmmaker, confusing and surprising everyone when they learned he was actually a black American. Actress Berger, who also appeared in Francois Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player (1960 / trailer), was killed just a short time after completing this picture.

Follow the link to They Died in September, Part II.

No comments: