By • Oct 21st, 2004 •

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The election is coming right up. My closest friends are breathing down my neck about Kerry, citing FAHRENHEIT 9/11 as evidence of a groundswell and successful tool against Bush. After all it’s the highest-grossing documentary of all time, up there around $118,000,000 to date. And I agree about its effectiveness…except for a few telling points.

First, I recall Michael Moore declaring that the only person qualified to be president was General Wesley Clark. I also remember Moore, at a Clark rally, calling Bush a draft dodger and putting Clark in a difficult position, from which he never recovered. Having possibly, inadvertently, helped knock his ‘only’ choice out of the running, Moore was forced to stand by Kerry, while his film continued to campaign for the anti-Bush cause, a cause that needed more help than it might have if Clark was the democratic candidate.

But the Bush camp has a film which performed far more impressively this year: THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. True, it wasn’t overtly political, nor, I wouldn’t imagine, was Gibson’s goal to drum up Bush votes. But as an indicator, it was geared toward the Bible Belt, where it did phenomenal business – $370,000,000. and rising – the kind usually reserved for a ‘date’ flick. And it certainly can be seen as an endorsement of the values Bush claims to stand for, which may translate into votes. Yes, a great many people who saw PASSION felt it was anti-Semitic and were angered by the film, and although Bush is overtly courting the Jewish vote, that’s a mixed message, so maybe 50-60 million of those theater tickets were not ultimately supportive. But a lot of those who paid to see FAHRENHEIT came away the same doubters they were when they went in, so it’s still probably 3 or 4 to 1 in favor of Bush’s camp, cinematically-speaking, in 2004.

And then again, some might theorize that South Park’s THE PASSION OF THE JEW (Paramount Home Video) was an antidote to Gibson’s film. Whatever it was, they’re both out on DVD now, and it’s a great double bill.

Hosted by the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, and co-presented with the British Academy of Film & Television Arts/Los Angeles, Ken Annakin received a 90th birthday tribute on August 30th. The British director and former journalist has given us a wonderful array of films (THE LONGEST DAY [Fox Home Entertainment}, THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN AND THEIR FLYING MACHINES [Fox Home Entertainment, with the director’s commentary], BATTLE OF THE BULGE, THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON [Disney DVD, with director and cast commentary], and THIRD MAN ON THE MOUNTAIN, among many others). We’re all waiting impatiently for the DVD release of ACROSS THE BRIDGE.

In July of ’94, when Mr. Annakin, who had himself helmed ‘epic’ films, was kind enough to participate in a survey I conducted about them for The Perfect Vision Magazine, of which I was then Managing Editor, he chose DOCTOR ZHIVAGO as his favorite epic film, “Because it takes a piece of very important history (The Russian Revolution) and follows characters all based on people who must have lived in that period. It weaves them into very human, heart-warming, and thrilling adventures; you learn and you are entertained.” And was there an epic film he still looked forward to making? “Yes. The true story of ‘Cochise’ – a Western told entirely from the point of view of this remarkable Apache leader. I also have a wonderful script called ‘Joseph & Emma’ which tells the story of Joseph Smith – how a very ordinary guy founded a whole new religion which is still growing. This is real American History of Epic quality – the problem is that everyone in the business is afraid of being accused of selling the Mormon religion!”

In the middle, Disco Donnie himself, flanked by Dutch songstress Hanny Nijhuis and Janet Frumkes, the editor’s adorable wife.

I visited the party for RISE: THE STORY OF RAVE OUTLAW DISCO DONNIE, held at Table 50 in downtown New York. Rising above the din for a few moments, I chatted with the eponymous entrepreneur himself, a modest fellow whose skill, as Julie Drazen‘s film indicates, lies in throwing together memorable events. Ms. Drazen was in attendance as well, expressing pleasure at what Music Video Distributors were doing for her. The DVD is an expressionistic overview of the rave scene, one in which no personalities really stand out, so the event itself, and the director’s high tech editing, appropriately, are the stars.

There have been some remarkable DVDs hitting the marketplace recently. The DAWN OF THE DEAD special edition 4-disc boxed set is the most stunning of them all. The film, which was the second in George Romero’s original ‘Dead’ series, has been called the GONE WITH THE WIND of the horror genre, and frankly it deserved to be shown the kind of respect befitting a classic of that stature. The presentation contains three stupendously mastered versions of the film, two documentaries (one of them being DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD, which I produced from 1979-89), and a host of commentary tracks. In according it the care and style that Anchor Bay has, they have actually elevated one of cinema’s most indigenous genres in the process.

Speaking of DVDs, there have also been some quirky developments in the adult home video biz. VCA has produced and released a 3-disc remake of THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN, a 1976 porno classic from the “Golden Age” when such films were shot on film, and when some of them gained mainstream respectability and popularity, if not mainstream release. The major difference here in adapting Henry Paris’ film is that the remake is a musical! And, it’s ambitious and amusing. There is a director’s commentary, a behind-the-scenes doc, bloopers, a comparison between the two versions, a music video, and a CD of the score. The film was directed with flair by Veronica Hart, and some familiar adult film stars seem to be having a lot of fun participating in this change of pace feature. Pseudonymous director Paris, a friend of mine, was not involved in the new production, except for the licensing.

Also from the adult industry, an oddity worth mentioning, but not quite worth buying unless you are a LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT completist: Excessive Entertainment has released 18 AND EASY, featuring a narrative thread by the film’s director, Fred Lincoln. Lincoln was one of the stars of LAST HOUSE, Wes Craven’s directorial debut back in ’72, which has justifiably achieved cult status. Lincoln was a porno actor at the time, and later became and is to this day one of the adult industry’s busiest directors. In ‘making of’ docs on LAST HOUSE, he has been openly critical of the film’s violence, though he’s perfectly comfortable with porno, and LAST HOUSE was originally supposed to include some (a tad of which exists in my collection of the film’s rushes). In 18 AND EASY, Lincoln enacts a thinly disguised reprise of his LAST HOUSE villain, making appropriate references up front to clue us in. And he even signs the film ‘Weasel Padowsky’, which was his character’s name in Wes’ film. But as the narrative – a series of vignettes – progresses, possibly still held in check by his loathing of the best film he ever appeared in, his opportunities to further parody LAST HOUSE are not seized upon, and so it’s a strangely diminishing pleasure to watch the film, hoping for some more inside gags, but not having them delivered.

Our own Victoria Alexander has been in Jerusalem for the past few weeks, walking the ground that Jesus trod, and quite alone, she tells us: tourism in that part of the world is not the revenue generator it once was.

Glenn Andreiev is busy filming his latest feature, SILVER NIGHT, with a guest appearance, for the second time, by Bernard Goetz. And again he’s lured me out of hiding to do a cameo, as a chauffeur in the 30s being interviewed about a famous murder case.

Happy Halloween, and keep an eye out for the annual Trick or Treat DVD column, one of our perennial favorites.

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