By • Oct 1st, 2002 •

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I’ve recently returned from a two week trip to Los Angeles, where I supervised the mastering of my film Street Trash for DVD. We used the original negative, and it was quite an experience for me, as substantially more detail could be seen than on any of the 35mm prints, so the DVD will look slightly different to fans of the 1987 film. I found myself trying to make it less subtle, more saturated and hard looking, the way filmgoers might remember it. Next I’m putting together a documentary on the film, which should take several months, and it’s all I think about nowadays. More on that later.

Also while I was on the coast I managed to chat with old friend Wes Craven, who confirmed that the last title card in The Kid Stays in the Picture, Robert Evans’ & Brett Morgen’s & Nanette Burstein’s wonderfully depressing tale of Hollywood, was indeed accurate. In said title card Evans claims to have succumbed to a massive stroke while attempting to seduce Wes into letting him produce the director’s novel, ‘Fountain Society’. Wes added that Evans was likable from the minute they met, passionate about film and straightforward. Perhaps, if it weren’t for the unfortunate embolism, we might have had an interesting film by now. But we do anyway…two of them: The Kid Stays in the Picture, one of the best films of the year (and the year grows late), and Wes’ The Last House on the Left, recently released on DVD, reviewed elsewhere in this issue.

Also I got to meet and chat with an idol of mine, someone who I could call my alter ego in that a character based on his screen persona appears in perhaps half of my screenplays. William Smith is a Hollywood oddity, a physical specimen whose ability to terrify resulted in his being cast most memorably in psychotic villain roles in such films as Darker Than Amber and TV fare such as Rich Man Poor Man. And yet, fluent in four languages including Russian (he was a military translator during the Korean War), there is an intellectual side to him that must have proved confusing to typecasters in the film capital. Look for an upcoming article from this little get-together at a Santa Monica coffee shop called The 18th Street Café. And look for Smith’s latest work in the Kamal Ahmed film God Has a Rap Sheet, a well-written and well-directed indie psychodrama currently making the festival rounds.

I returned to find The Sweet Life, my latest film project, wandering very slowly toward completion. The score is now finished, with the ADR work and Mix still lying before us. Joan Jett has already started mentioning the film and singing the theme song at concerts, which is most gratifying. Then again she’s wonderful in the film, so why wouldn’t she want to promote it?

The Summer is gone, and there have been a few good flicks, and a few dogs. My two least favorite have been the direct result of false advertising, something that will never stop, but as long as they do it, I’ll be spitting venom at it. Reign of Fire was preceded by major poster plastering around town – nice posters, I have to say – depicting London in flames, set upon by marauding fire-breathing dragons, while five army helicopters seek to do battle with the reptiles. However the film itself had only one helicopter, and only one dragon (at a time). I felt like I was seeing the Roger Corman version. I just sat there feeling duped. Maybe there was something worthwhile in the film; I’ll never know.

And the other one was M. Knight Shyamalan’s Signs. Again, the posters were misleading. The film was no more about signs than Windtalkers was about windtalking. Crop circles in the supernatural sense comprised a mere few minutes of the film’s time and narrative, and I hear there were shots suggesting Sci Fi effects work in the trailers which were not in the film for even a frame. In fact, the vast amber field, two football field-lengths of it, depicted in the posters, gave a feeling of space, and even that was missing in the movie, which takes place mainly in a house less spacious it seems than that in Night of the Living Dead, with four dour individuals whose pregnant pauses, lifeless thesping, and illogical narrative demands, made me furious. How about yourselves? I’ve heard some nifty theorizing about what the film actually meant. How it was a dream film akin to Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. How there could only have been one alien since the film was a metaphor about a priest losing his faith and the alien looked suspiciously like the devil… And I like those theories; heck, I’ll entertain anything. But the film didn’t entertain me. And if the ad campaign had been more honest, maybe it would have. Too late now. I can’t imagine people wanting to buy it on DVD.

Red Dragon came out. Another cannibal flick – can I tell people I liked Cannibal Holocaust now? Is it politically correct in wake of the Hopkins franchise? Brett Ratner did a terrific job with this instalment, surrounding himself with the finest crew and cast on the planet, a very wise move. Despite that, Bobby Cramer chooses to lament the film’s shortcomings in her review. I was not of that opinion myself; I thought, in balance, this version was more comprehensible than Manhunter, less directorially masturbatory, and the scenes that weren’t in Mann’s film are powerful as hell. That’s the best way to judge this one if you’ve seen the other; because with the familiar material, it was hard to be sure what I thought.
I did miss Bryan Cox though. He was a delicious Lekter. You can catch his interpretation on DVD from Anchor Bay, and you can catch our interview with him in the interview section of the FIR site.

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