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….
No promises we’ll have a Friday news dump this week, so you’d better enjoy this edition…
* Well, the big news tonight is most definitely the reorganization going over at the Warner Brothers megastudio. As far as I’m able to suss out, what this amounts to is a consolidation of power for CEO Jeff Bewkes. Reading Nikki Finke‘s current summary of the situation is a bit like reading a Television Without Pity post for a very complicated soap opera you’ve never seen, but Anne Thompson keeps it much, much simpler. On his way out exec Alan Horn is a good guy who Thompson believes was simply superfluous. Another case of a nice guy finishing last?
However, Nikki Finke does allude to a very crucial part of the Warners empire, and that’s DC Comics now being headed by the Warners minded and Finke approved Diane Nelson. As it happens, my deep, deep connections in the comics biz were e-mailing me news earlier today — which I was somewhat aware of but failed to properly cover earlier in the week — of an onging reorganization going on over there which certainly ties into the ongoing attempts at Warners to become more aggressive regarding comics adaptations along the lines of what Marvel Entertainment has been doing for some time — and also to try and avoid more flops like “Jonah Hex.”
There was even talk some talk of DC becoming entirely a West Coast operation, but that would be a major breach of publishing industry tradition with some actual problems involved and, in any case, thanks to FedEx and the ‘net, freelancers can live where they want now. Heidi MacDonald’s great comics blog The Beat has been covering this end of the story and you read about some of what’s going on here.
No time for my usual prolixity tonight, but here is the new international trailer for “Buried” an apparent two-man show from director Rodrigo Cortés and star Ryan Reynolds, which presents us with a cinematic challenge in screen suspense that might have made even Alfred Hitchcock in his “Rope,” “Rear Window” and “Lifeboat” mode think twice. You may compare and contrast with the earlier trailer here.
Now available in a flawless restoration from Criterion, this 1940 comedy-spy thriller was a non-sequel follow-up to Alfred Hitchcock‘s final British masterpiece of lighthearted suspense, “The Lady Vanishes.” Leading lady Margaret Lockwood was on board to star in a second wittily askew, fast-paced script from writers Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, who deserved as much acclaim as their director and knew it. Hitchcock, however, had left permanently for Hollywood and male lead Michael Redgrave was unavailable. A young Rex Harrison (“My Fair Lady”) stepped in as a dashing and egotistical British agent charged with rescuing a pretty Czechoslovakian (Lockwood) and her weapons scientist father (James Harcourt) from Nazi captivity on the eve of world war. Replacing Hitchcock, Carol Reed (“The Third Man”) didn’t mess a step. Also returning are masters of comic understatement Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, back for more train-based foreign intrigue as the cricket-obsessed duo, Charters and Caldicott. New on board is Paul Henreid (“Casablanca”), playing a Czech concentration camp escapee who is no Victor Laszlo. A hit in its day, “Night Train” has been overshadowed by its predecessor, but it’s only a little less brilliant, with obvious miniature effects that embarrassed Reed and marred the climax slightly, and some too-obvious plot holes. Directly addressing World War II, it does have a more modern feel than “The Lady Vanishes,” however, with black comic echoes of “To Be or Not to Be” and ironic foreshadows of James Bond and, yup, “Inglourious Basterds.”
It’s one of those days. Another Hollywood craftsman has left us, though Robert F. Boyle got to be about as famous as production designers/art directors ever get and he also lived to the ripe age of 100. Responsible for the gorgeously stylized sets and backgrounds you’ll see below, Boyle was probably best known for the few films he did with Alfred Hitchcock, particularly “North by Northwest” as well as with Norman Jewison on the first, amazing, version of “The Thomas Crown Affair.” Since both movies have great trailers that really show off Boyle’s work, we’ll show you those.