Camp David

CAMP DAVID MARCH 2003

By • Mar 1st, 2003 •

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Welcome to the first CAMP DAVID of 2003!

Hollywood is preparing for the onslaught of awards ceremonies leading up to the Oscars. This very much looks like Jack Nicholson’s year as he has already won the Best Actor trophy from The Golden Globes for ABOUT SCHMIDT. A recent mishap had put your intrepid columnist out of commission as the year began but now I am on the mend and ready to focus on Tinseltown in all its absurd incarnations.

The only good thing about the tasteless, witless Austin Powers franchise has been the renewed interest in Sixties pop culture. Case in point, the HQ Gallery in the heart of Hollywood, the City That Has No Heart, sponsored a well-deserved reexamination of Antonioni’s groundbreaking Sixties cinema artifact, BLOWUP. The film, which rocked the entertainment world when it came out, was a thinly-veiled portrait of photographer David Bailey and created an interest in glamour photography that exists to this day. Sixty well-appointed photographs in varying sizes were on display (even though the identity of the photographer remains a mystery to this day) the evening of March 6th as we all stepped into a time capsule and spent a phantasmagorical happening in the company of supermodel Veruschka who was flown in from New York especially for the event.

I found Veruschka to be most charming and modest, looking remarkably like she did in the film. She confided that she had not seen Antonioni since the film wrapped four decades ago and was not in the film world any longer. A light show was continuous as music from the era filled the room. I can only hope that such events give the younger generation the curiosity to look beyond the “Yeah, babies” and absorb this Golden Age for what it’s worth.
The event was presented by FLAUNT magazine and David Wills, who knows how to put this kind of exhibition together, and kudos to the HQ Gallery, its curator and staff.

Having been an agent, I am always aware of actors as I go about my daily trek, either here in Beverly Hills or Hollywood itself. I was very pleasantly surprised the other day as I was in my local pharmacy and who should I come face to face with but P. R. Deltoid himself! I am of course referring to the great Aubrey Morris who made such an impression on Yours Truly back in the good old days when I first saw Stanley Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Mr. Morris has made his mark both in the West End of London as well as Broadway . He is a most accomplished Shakespearean actor and scholar. Those only familiar with his screen work would be amazed at the length and breadth of his theatrical experience.

Aubrey was not only an alumnus of RADA [Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts] but a veteran of every aspect of the British theatrical experience. He has performed opposite Orson Welles as Falstaff at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin, dancing an impromptu minuet on stage. He has performed Ibsen and Shaw and virtually all the great dramatists one can name. On the BBC, Morris has become a staple, having appeared opposite Sir John Gielgud in SHADES OF GREEN (“Special Duties”) and a startling tour-de-force as Nikita Khruschchev in the miniseries SUEZ.

As a cult figure, Aubrey is assured a place in its hall of fame. He has virtually guest starred in every British television series from SPACE: 1999 to THE AVENGERS and a trio of turns in Patrick McGoohan’s THE PRISONER and SECRET AGENT aka DANGER MAN, all of which are available on DVD through Arts & Entertainment.

Needless to say, I was delighted to acquaint myself with this talented Renaissance actor and raconteur. He has graciously accepted my offer to an exclusive interview for FILMS IN REVIEW. I will keep you readers posted on when this interview will be up. I know you will want to know which director, on a Hammer Film, died in his arms, and which legendary actors endeared themselves to him or outraged this formidable talent. All will be revealed in my exclusive conversation with Aubrey Morris here online.

One of the pleasant surprises of the millennium was the release of New Line Cinema’s FINAL DESTINATION, what one expected was another “teen flick with a body count.” However, the film proved to be not only suspenseful and cleverly scripted; it also paid tribute to the great legacy of horror films past and present. For example, one of the characters is named Val Lewton (after the celebrated producer of 1942’s CAT PEOPLE and others). The homage didn’t stop there as screenwriters James Wong and Glen Morgan also employed camera setups from such classic fare as CURSE OF THE DEMON and other British-made thrillers. Since the advent of SCREAM and I SAW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER one wouldn’t expect an intelligent opus to be made from the same cloth as the aforementioned films.

This writer would never have had the pleasure of discovering FINAL DESTINATION were it not for Automat Pictures, who were signed by New Line to create a documentary for FINAL DESTINATION PART II which opens nationwide this month. Having worked for this remarkable company several times since returning from my Palm Springs days, I was given the DVD New Line recently released with a treasure trove of extras including two documentaries, deleted scenes and an alternate ending that may even work better than the one audiences saw in the Summer of 2000.

Automat has created what will hopefully be a resourceful and informative documentary on the history of the so-called “Splatter Film” since the days of Herschel Gordon Lewis and Andy Mulligan. Your columnist is an on-camera guest along with the legendary Mr. Lewis and, having just wrapped the project days ago, I have high hopes for the finished product.

My contact at Arts & Entertainment, the essential Miss Lemon (Suzanne Dobson), has informed me that like the stupendous presentation of classic television THE AVENGERS and THE PRISONER Megasets, SPACE: 1999 has been given the same treatment and is available most everywhere DVD is sold. There will also be another box set of THE AVENGERS with Linda Thorson as Tara King, completing what was almost the last season of the cult series. Hopefully A & E will also release the little-seen THE NEW AVENGERS with a pre-AB FAB Joanna Lumley. Fans of Patrick McGoohan will also be glad to know there is a new set of SECRET AGENT AKA DANGER MAN.

As those that know me from my interviewing days with Films and Filming magazine know, I never discard an interview and many of my favorites were not printed during that periodical’s final run. Having said that, I am pleased to report that editor/publisher Richard Valley, whole remarkable magazine Scarlet Street has graciously decided to print a few of my conversations, some for the first time. Already he has published my dialogues with Christopher Lee and Helmut Berger, and the latest issue will feature my encounter with one of the remaining cast members of GONE WITH THE WIND, Evelyn Keyes. Check your local newsstand for a copy. Thanks, Richard.

Who was Jack the Ripper?? Author Patricia Cornwell has spent over four million dollars to research her claim that Walter Sickert, an impressionist painter who walked the streets of Whitechapel during the Ripper murders in 1888, and some twenty years later created a startling series of paintings called “The Camden Town Murders”, was indeed the Grandfather of all Serial Killers! Cornwell’s book is entitled “Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed”, and it will undoubtedly outsell anything else on the subject. Just wait for the film!

Filmmakers have long been fascinated by the Ripper legend. Even the master of suspense himself, Hitchcock, gave us an early silent version with THE LODGER, showcasing Ivor Novello. John Brahm created two Ripper films over at Fox with HANGOVER SQUARE and the second version of THE LODGER, both starring Laird Cregar. Each of the actors happen to have been gay, and Cregar died soon after the release of HANGOVER SQUARE, having undergone surgery to lose weight and have a go at heterosexuality.

If you want to learn more about the movies of Saucy Jack, I recommend without reservation Denis Meikle’s “Jack the Ripper: the Murders and the Movies”. He goes into great detail with every Ripper film up to FROM HELL, the much talked-about and rather graphic account starring Johnny Depp.

Anchor Bay has just released MURDER BY DECREE, the Bob Clark film of 1979 and it is a masterful job they have done with the DVD presentation, long out of print and nearly legendary as a classic combination of Ripper lore and Sherlock Holmes. There have been other attempts to have these characters meet but none have been as on target as this one. The screenplay is based on “Sherlock Holmes and Saucy Jack.” Director Clark uses all of his considerable talent to bring it to the screen as he did with such creepers as BLACK CHRISTMAS and MADHOUSE with Vincent Price.

The notion that Jack the Ripper was a Golem created by the Royal Family with aid from the free masons to murder all the witnesses to a marriage that could topple the throne is a gripping one. The casting is inspired, with Christopher Plummer as Holmes and the glorious James Mason as perhaps the greatest Watson in screen history. We are enormously indebted to Anchor Bay for making this film available again for reappraisal after the press storm over FROM HELL awhile ago which covered the same material for about ten million more in their budget and less than stellar results. If you really are into Ye Olde Ripper then you might also want to go from the sublime to the ridiculous with Jess Franco’s JACK THE RIPPER, wherein Klaus Kinski takes to the fog with lots of zooms and close-ups of body parts in a Eurotrash masterpiece of gore and mayhem.

Having begun this column introducing a new friend from the acting profession to FIR, it is only fitting to remember another actor who is no longer with us but who was not only a remarkable character but a great friend. On February 3rd Kinoeye will be featuring an exclusive interview with the late Austrian actor, Reggie Nalder, who achieved worldwide attention as the assassin in Hitchcock’s second version of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH.

Please join me in paying homage to this unique presence by logging onto Kinoeye.org and enjoy “Marked by the Devil” from your most obedient servant at Camp David.

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