RIP Dino De Laurentiis

Another link to cinema’s past has left us with the passing of the legendary Italian and eventually American producer at age 91. A truly old school style movie mogul with all the good and bad that went with that, creatively speaking, Dino De Laurentiis was instrumental in launching the worldwide vogue for European cinema, particularly in his partnership with fellow powerhouse producer Carlo Ponti and ultimate Italian auteur Federico Fellini.

During a period I personally consider Fellini’s creative prime, De Laurentiis co-produced two of the director’s most powerful films, the classic tearjerker “La Strada” with Anthony Quinn and the great Giulietta Masina, and “Nights of Cabiria” also with Masina, a great tragicomedy and a huge personal favorite of mine. He also produced two now somewhat obscure adaptations, a version of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” with Audrey Hepburn and “Ulysses.” Fortunately, the latter was not an adaptation of the James Joyce stream-of-consciousness meganovel, but Homer’s “The Odyssey,” and starred Kirk Douglas in the heroic title role.

No snob, De Laurentiis had a gift for commingling arthouse fare, quality middlebrow entertainment, and complete schlock — some of it fun, some it merely schlocky. Geeks cried foul when he eschewed stop-motion for an unworkable animatronic monstrosity and, mostly, Rick Baker in a monkey suit for his silly mega-blockbuster remake attempt, “King Kong,” but that movie was a classic when compared to something like the hugely regrettable killer-whale flick “Orca.”

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Good genre-blended cheese, bad genre-blended cheese.

I love movies, that blend multiple genres. I get even more interested if one of those genres is a musical. Still, the more chances you take the more you risk ending  up with something like the genuinely godawful trailer for an insane looking mishmash called “El Dorado” over at Bloody Disgusting, which in this instance is way more disgusting in an aesthetic sense than it is bloody in a literal sense.

It’s so bad in an non-entertaining way and kind of depressing way that I can’t bring myself to inflict it on you here, despite a cast that seems to promise something genuinely unusual. That includes the final appearance of David Carradine, who surely deserved better — but then deserving better in late career films is certainly following in the footsteps of his legendary dad. Still, you can heck out the horror-musical Blues Brother tribute or whatever it is over at Mr. Disgusting’s place if you’re in the mood for a cinematic train wreck, and we all have that impulse.

Instead, I am presenting a couple of minutes sheer insanity that is actually entertaining. Ladies and gentlemen, if you think you’ve seen everything in grindhouse-era movie madness, see this and be amazed and amused. The great Bernie Casey IS “Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde.” (NSFW in a red-bandy, partial frontal nudity kind of a way.)

You’ve got to wonder what Robert Louis Stevenson would have made of that.

  

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“…Fresh insights into the collaborative effort of filmmaking…”

I’ve been going back and forth all day about how to deal, if at all, with the more sensational/embarrassing aspects of the ongoing story of David Carradine’s death.

I’m not doing a gossip column here. Ethical issues aside, on a day to day basis, I have little interest in it. However, there are times when I’m just as fascinated by the more dramatic details of other people’s lives as anyone, particularly if they were interesting people, and David Carradine certainly qualified. In any case, if you’re a cinephile and you deny being a bit of a voyeur, you’re probably no fun to spend time with.

Also, how can anyone ignore a possible auto-erotic asphyxiation, a morality tale about what can happen when self-described recovering alcoholics apparently return to drinking, and even an apparent suspicion of the possibility of foul play? Considering my linking to the stories above, I’d be a huge hypocrite to deny my own interest in this stuff, but as Will Harris’ memorial piece from the morning of reminds us, this was a human being and there’s a good chance I might well find myself dying in some embarrassing way. (Perhaps choking on a pastrami sandwich, clad only boxers and a mustard-stained Astro-Boy t-shirt, while watching “Once More With Feeling” for the 200th time.)

In any case, I don’t have much to add to it except for one more link, from close to where I live in the heart of American Cinephilia. It’s writer Chris Willman‘s account of a post-screening Q&A involving Carradine and legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler — an important filmmaker and a complex dude in his own right — gone seriously weird. I don’t know how I missed hearing about this event when it actually happened. I’ve been to hundreds of such post-screening discussions and while things have occasionally gotten slightly prickly under the surface when former coworkers reunite to discuss eventful productions, I’ve never seen anything rivaling this. But, as the putative host of the event, a screening of Hal Ashby’s epic biopic, “Bound for Glory,” implied in the comment I lifted for the title of this post, it does kind of a give us a peak inside the hairier side of picture-making, which may have been just a bit hairier in the 1970s.

  

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BadAzz Mofo Geeky Quick Hits

Other than the very sad and disturbing passing of David Carradine, very well noted by Will Harris a bit earlier (I’ve got more at my own bloggy digs, Forward to Yesterday), it’s kind of a slow news day in the movie world…

* In a bit of very inside baseball, with his upcoming “Avatar” 3-D extravaganza already getting a lot of ink many months before its X-Mas release, James Cameron has broken with his past practice and has signed with an agency. And not just any agency, but the mighty CAA. I know, your life will never be the same. Variety has the scoop, such as it is.

* 79-year-old lifelong cinema enfant terrible Jean-Luc Godard (“Breathless,” “Contempt” — a great film you really ought to see) is looking to do a film inspired by a Holocaust memoir, says THR. I know, your life will really never be the same, but this is interesting. Godard, a truly radical leftist, criticized Israel implicitly in his 1967 comic masterpiece, “Weekend,” when the middle-east nation’s battles were still very much a liberal cause. I’m not at all one to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, but the film itself, and the worldwide response from Jewish groups, should be worth watching for those of us interested in this kind of thing.

* And finally, Nikki Finke devoted all of 24 words this morning to the passing of David Carradine (and turned off comments for some reason), but after adding that she doesn’t “do geek,” she did find time to devote some space to covering Total Sci-Fi‘s “25 Women Who Shook Sci-Fi” list, with a definite emphasis on bad-ass mofo type females. It was topped by Sigourney Weaver‘s Ripley from the “Alien” franchise (including “Aliens” from the aforementioned J. Cameron). The list also covered fantasy for whatever reason and #2 on the list was Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Geller) of “Buffy” fame. (My personal Buffsession, Willow Rosenberg, aka Alyson Hannigan, came in at #21.) With the possible exception of the first choice, which I really can’t argue with as long as you’re talking about actresses and not, say, writers, my list would be entirely different — if I didn’t tend to avoid lists. Since we really do “do geek” here at Premium Hollywood, allow me to link to fan site Whedonesque‘s comment thread on the topic, where the discussion eventually includes the terrific SF (not “sci-fi”!) writer, Roger Zelazny. Now that’s geek.

  

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Kwai Chang Caine has gone to meet his Master

Sad news to report: actor David Carradine has died.

I’d be depressed about this news no matter what, given Carradine’s impressive body of work, which includes the classic TV series, “Kung Fu,” as well as such films as “Death Race 2000,” “Bound for Glory” (where he played Woody Guthrie), “Q: The Winged Serpent” (one of my favorite cult sci-fi/horror flicks), and, most recently, Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” films. But what really hits home is that I actually interviewed Carradine last year, when he was doing the promotional rounds for “Kung Fu Killer,” the miniseries which reunited him with his “Kill Bill” co-star, Daryl Hannah.

When I heard the news, I immediately thought back to these particular comments, which came about after I asked him how much longer he thought he could get away with playing a bad-ass:

Well, it’s almost a vanity of mine that I can still do this stuff when I’m 70. I think I can probably still do it when I’m in my 80s, but we’ll have to see. But I don’t really feel like I’m getting any older. I don’t know what that’s about…but I’m happy about it! I don’t hurt, I don’t much get tired, there doesn’t seem to be much that I can’t still do, and there are even some things that I didn’t used to be able to do that I can do now. I actually seem to be getting stronger, and I have more endurance and everything. I don’t know, I can’t explain it.

Wow, that makes me sad.

It also makes me very skeptical of the current reports that he may have taken his own life. (As of this writing, they’re still unconfirmed.) Suicide would go against not only the things he said during our conversation but, indeed, that he’s said in just about every interview I’ve ever read or seen with the guy. He always seemed to be as inherently spiritual as the character who brought him his greatest fame. I’m sure he’d be at peace with himself at the moment of his passing, but it just feels unlikely to me that he’d opt to be the one who chose that moment.

By the way, I think this is the first time someone I’ve interviewed for Bullz-Eye has died. Let’s hope that, despite our editor-in-chief’s comment when I mentioned this fact, it does not signify the beginning of “the Bullz-Eye curse.”

Rest in peace, grasshopper. At least we’ve got a lot of great work to remember you by…

And, of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t offer up what’s arguably Carradine’s signature scene within the “Kill Bill” films:

  

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