RIP Roy Ward Baker

It’s a blissfully slow movie news week so far, after last week’s frenzy, so far (unless I missed something…I’m busy!).

In any case, it’s time to catch up on the passing last week at age 93 of one of the most reliable members of the Hammer Films horror and science fiction stable of the sixties and seventies, as well as the director of the some of the coolest British TV of that time, Roy Ward Baker. Aside from starting his career as Alfred Hitchcock‘s assistant director on the spy-comedy-suspense classic, “The Lady Vanishes,” being one of the main directors on the legendary season of “The Avengers” that featured Diana Rigg as the immortal Mrs. Emma Peel, aside from directing “A Night to Remember” (about the Titanic, but without Jack and Rose), as well as the racy “The Vampire Lovers” and the gender bending “Dr. Jeckyll and Sister Hyde,” he also made one of my favorite pieces of British film science fiction. We Americans call it “Five Millions Years to Earth” but to the rest of the world it’s….

  

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What, you haven’t seen “The Avengers” movie already?

It came out 58 years ago. Come on, get with it already.

Amazing, considering the comic book (and the birth of Joss Whedon) was about eleven years off. I love “pre-makes.” Okay, what movies/TV shows did you spot in there? Nice seeing mid-sixties Emma Peel from that other “The Avengers” recast as Black Widow. Diana Rigg would have perfect for the part, and would have no trouble doing a Russian accent, for that matter. Nice touch with the “Timely-Atlas.” Real comics geeks will recognize that as name of the comic book forerunner to Marvel where such characters as Captain America and the (non Fantastic Four) Human Torch were first published.

Also, neat trick turning eyepatch-wearing “Thunderball” villain Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) into Nick Fury via the voice of Lee Marvin from “The Dirty Dozen.” I rarely use this word, but Lee Marvin would have been an awesome head of SHIELD (and a natural as Sgt. Fury, of course). Celi, not so much.

H/t Harry Knowles. A first here for me, I think, linkwise.

  

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Harry Potter and the more family-friendly rating

Early ticket sales are outpacing “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” which naturally warms my Michael Bay-unfriendly heart, but that’s not the only news for the upcoming “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

A day or two back, Pamela McClintock of Variety wrote an article detailing the possible box office up- and downsides of the milder PG MPAA rating the upcoming Harry Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” will have in comparison to the stronger PG-13 rating of the previous film. (Shorter version: parents may be more likely to encourage to allow kids to see it, but teens may prefer the allure of mild cinematic transgression promised by the PG-13.)

This PG-rating seems like another example of the arbitrary nature of the ratings. (It’s actually worse than that, but that’s another blog post.) Of course, I haven’t seen the new Potter film — and I’m not half way through reading the book yet — but by the very nature of the series, with the characters maturing and a war of wizards raging, the new film should, if anything, be at least slightly more violent and sexually charged than the prior film.

Even with most of us lucky enough to lead lives more or less without violence, real life is NC-17 from a fairly young age. For most of us, daily life is full of cursing, scatology (assuming we’re reasonably regular), sex and/or thoughts of sex. It’s not implying any scandal whatsoever to say that a sufficiently frank documentary about the making of a Harry Potter film could get an quick R-rating simply for language. Thanks to Ricky Gervais and company, we already have an idea of what such a documentary might be like.

  

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