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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RIP William A. Fraker

Via Anne Thompson comes word of the passing of director of photography William A. Fraker. Fraker wasn’t one of the biggest names in cinematography of the later 20th century, but he had a definite knack for atmosphere and direct storytelling, and wasn’t afraid to take on highly diverse and unusual projects. His CV included everything from “Tombstone,” “Vegas Vacation” and “War Games” to such ultra-culty projects as Ralph Bakshi’s “Coonskin,” Theodore Flicker’s spy-satire “The President’s Analyst,” Curtis Harrington’s “Games,” and the underrated musical biopic “American Hot Wax.”  Of course, he also worked on a couple of bonafide sixties mega-blockbusters, the ur-action cop movie, “Bullitt,” and the horror masterpiece that still reverberates whether any of us likes it or not, “Rosemary’s Baby.”

Below are some clips which show what a versatile director of photography like Mr. Fraker can do, starting with the obvious, which really shows that Fraker knew his way around shadows.

More after the flip.

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The definition of a slow Monday morning in Hollywood

We’ve only got news on one remake, one sequel, and few odd cultural jeremiads on the same theme.

* I’ve just barely finished my decades-long personal boycott of the original, and now there they’re talking about a remake of John Milius’s “Red Dawn”. The 1984 film may seem a bit quaint now that it’s old enough to be ready to finish grad school but at the time it seemed to me an irresponsible act of cultural provocation with potentially catastrophic impact if people took it too seriously. Fortunately, few did and most took its absurd plot about a Soviet land invasion as the balderdash that it was. Back then, Republicans and Democrats alike knew that World War III would last about 90 minutes and result in the destruction of most everyone and everything. (This was before the tinfoil hate hat era of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.)

As political propaganda, the prior year’s “War Games” proved far more effective and possibly even affected movie-bred President Reagan’s thinking on the topic as well. In any case, a film about a Chinese-Russian co-invasion (don’t they still hate each other?) seems just bizarre now and, again, pretty much impossible — assuming it doesn’t end with something very close to complete annihilation.

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