RIP Tom Mankiewicz

The son of the great writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (“All About Eve”) and nephew of equally great screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (“Citizen Kane,” “The Pride of the Yankees”), Tom Mankiewicz was by his own admission understandably intimidated by his relatives’ example. Still, he forged a reputation as a solid screenwriter and an ace script doctor, writing the final drafts of 1978’s “Superman” and 1980’s “Superman II” as well as “polishing” a number of scripts including “War Games,” “Gremlins” and Tim Burton’s “Batman.” He died today at age 68. According to his L.A. Times obituary, he had been undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.

I want to remember Mankiewicz with the fun, and only slightly silly, openings to two of the most underrated entries in the James Bond series. The deliriously brutal “Diamonds are Forever” from 1971 and probably my favorite Roger Moore Bond, 1974’s “The Man With the Golden Gun” (which I’m not sure if I’ve even seen as an adult).  Note how both openings cleverly break the mold of most of the pre-credit sequences in the series. A necessity in the first case because of Connery’s temporary replacement by George Lazenby on “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and the unusually dark ending of that film which sets Bond off on a deadly vendetta against Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The second doesn’t even include the live Roger Moore, but we do see quite a bit of the great Christopher Lee as perhaps Bond’s most skillfully deadly nemesis, and Hervé Villechaize in a role which no doubt inspired the creators of the humorously awful “Fantasy Island.”

It really has been a long time since I saw this. All I’d like to know is — what was the Tabasco for? I didn’t see any breakfast. Gratuitous early product placement? H/t Mubi – David Hudson

  

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Midweek movie news, and then…

After tonight, I’ll be taking a break from the daily blogging grind for just a bit. That means I’ll be out completely for a couple of days at least and then you may see a post here and there and then, suddenly, I’ll be back like I was never gone in the first place, probably towards the tail end of the month. So, this will have to hold you for a little while.

* As of tonight, corporate raider Carl Icahn appears to be a majority stockholder in Lionsgate.

* I’ve never been a fan of the seventies movie of the silly seventies film version of “Logan’s Run,” but with Carl Erik Rinsch directing, my interest in the new film perked up considerably. Now, Alex Garland — who wrote and produced the not-entirely-unrelated upcoming version of “Never Let Me Go” which I discussed yesterday — has jumped on board, making it even more interesting. Better, they’re approaching it as a new version of the book, not a remake of the film. In the 1976 film, by the way, no one in the futuristic society was permitted to live past 30. In the novel, it was 21.

* Sam Raimi has been confirmed as the director of “Oz: The Great and Powerful.” Apparently Robert Downey, Jr., who just formed a new company with his producer wife, Susan Downey, is the most likely Oz at this point.

* Be sure and check out Will Harris’s terrific interview with one of the best, Isabella Rossellini. Easily one of the most fascinating  actresses of the last thirty years or so, with quite a backstory behind her. Don’t miss it.

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*Though Ms. Rossellini seems perfectly at home in a very humorous way with her fifty-something status, that is not really always the case for actresses. This month’s conversation between Jason Bellamy and Ed Howard at the House Next Door underlines that point as the cinephile thinkers discuss two of Hollywood’s greatest show-biz based films, “Sunset Boulevard” and “All About Eve,” both released in 1950 and both dealing with actresses who struggling with this whole passage of time thing.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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A post without a Tarantino

I just woke up and realized that there’s more to life than our talented and ever controversial lantern-jawed friend. For example…

* I’ve made it clear too many times that I’m not innately hostile to remakes. But in the annals of apparent bad ideas, Robert Zemeckis using his invariably uninspiring/unconvincing style of motion-capture to remake the Beatles psychedlic animation “Yellow Submarine” is a real contender. I don’t consider the original a great film but it is what it is and remaking it with two of the original Beatles now long passed on seems bizarre to me. I truly don’t see a point here, but maybe I’m missing something.

* I’ve been remiss in not mentioning the whole mishegas going on between Redbox and Warner Brothers. If Warners doesn’t want to sell them the titles prior to 28 days after their release on home video, I’m not sure if there’s any legal justification for forcing them too, but then I’m not a lawyer. On the other hand, as Patrick Goldstein points out in the article from Monday I linked to above, business models like Redbox are going to be unavoidable as the home entertainment market becomes ever more important.

I get more DVDs than I have time to watch for free as part of my critic gig, but I honestly have never understood why anyone would purchase a DVD of a movie that isn’t a huge favorite, much less a movie they’ve never seen before. It’s not like a CD where you can pop it into your car stereo or put it on for background music while you make dinner and, of course, people are figuring out ways to not buy those as well. Seems to me that the economy is forcing people to be a little more discriminating.

* Executive Tom Sherak is the new head of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences (AMPAS to its friends), stepping in for the term-limited Sid Ganis. Anne Thompson has no problem with it. Stepping right into character, Nikki Finke has a huge problem with it, and so do many of her commenters, while the rest are pro-Sherak. Why is it that every time I read the comments at Ms. Finke’s, I get the feeling I’m watching the road company version of “All About Eve”?

* The guy has “movie star” written all over him — he’s a little bit Gregory Peck, a little bit Cary Grant (including Grant’s gift for comedy), with a touch of young Montgomery Clift — so especially with the widely touted ratings success of “Mad Men” on Sunday night, it’s no surprise Jon Hamm is getting movie work. The latest addition to his resume is Zack Snyder’s “Sucker Punch”. Anne Thompson prefers “The Town,” however. One thing’s for sure, if anyone ever decides to do “The James Mason Story,” he’s the guy.

  

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