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 Posted:   Feb 12, 2013 - 10:13 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

In the early 1970s, actor Darren McGavin and Swiss banker Hans Ulrich Rinderknecht formed Taurean Films, S. A., a production company incorporated in Switzerland. McGavin produced and made his theatrical film directorial debut with the company’s first film, 1973’s HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY . . . LOVE, GEORGE. This psycho-thriller involved a series of gruesome murders that shakes a small New England fishing village while an adopted teen searches for his biological parents.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY . . . LOVE, GEORGE had an original screenplay by Robert Clouse, who had made his feature film writing-producing-directing debut with 1970’s little-seen DREAMS OF GLASS. He had also directed the 1970 “Travis McGee” detective thriller DARKER THAN AMBER starring Rod Taylor. Clouse’s most famous film as a director was ENTER THE DRAGON, which ironically opened in New York on the same day as HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY . . . LOVE, GEORGE.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY . . . LOVE, GEORGE starred Patricia Neal, Cloris Leachman, Bobby Darin, Simon Oakland, and Ron Howard. The film marked the last screen appearance of singer-actor Bobby Darin, who died at age 37 on 20 December 1973 following open heart surgery. Nominated for a Supporting Actor Oscar for CAPTAIN NEWMAN, M.D. (1964), Darin was the former husband of actress Sandra Dee. Playing the part of Patricia Neal’s daughter in the film was her real-life daughter, Tessa Dahl, in her film debut. Tessa Dahl’s father was British author Roald Dahl. And, Kathie Browne, who appeared as "Crystal," was Darren McGavin's wife.

Under the working titles “Happy Mother's Day” and “Mother's Day,” the film went before the cameras in early October 1972 in Nova Scotia, Canada. Filming wrapped in late February 1973. The PG-rated film had its Manhattan premiere on 17 August 1973, released by Cinema 5 Distributing. The critics were completely unimpressed by the film. Rejecting “this murky, obvious pretense at suspense and mystery,” Cue’s William Wolf found the story “hopeless” and added that “actor-turned-director Darren McGavin certainly hasn’t wrought any special compensations.” The New York Times’ Roger Greenspun agreed that in directing the “gothic horror” tale, “McGavin has come up to just about the level of his material, which is very low.” And Newsday’s Martin Levine found the film to be “singularly excessive and confused,” adding that “I walked out after an hour.” Variety’s “Robe” noted in his review that, due to poor editing, some of the actors credited onscreen, like Thayer David, weren’t actually in the film.

The critics did manage to praise two aspects of the film. The first was Walter Lassally’s cinematography, which Cue’s Wolf found “lovely” and the New York Daily News’ Kathleen Carroll declared was “the one redeeming asset of the movie.” The second was the performance of 16-year-old Tessa Dahl. Carroll told her readers that “in spite of everything, Miss Dahl exudes sensuality and shows promise,” and Wolf concurred that “Miss Neal’s tall, attractive, real-life daughter shows signs of her own special qualities.” Nevertheless, the critics were solidly behind New York’s Chris Chase who said that the film “is almost all nastiness” and, noting that Tessa Dahl was taller and heavier than her mother, wished that Dahl had “wrestled producer-director Darren McGavin to the ground and sat on him until he’d agreed to burn this movie.”

Following the film’s critical drubbing in New York, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY . . . LOVE, GEORGE was temporarily withdrawn from distribution. It later appeared briefly elsewhere around the country on the bottom end of double bills under the new title Run, Stranger, Run before being sold to television. The film was broadcast on ABC in 1975. Although onscreen credits contained a copyright statement for Taurean Films, S A., the film was not registered for copyright until 13 June 1980. Under its reissue title, the film was released on cassette by RCA/Columbia Home Video in 1989, but has not appeared on DVD. The film is available on YouTube, under the "Run, Stranger, Run" title.

Although Taurean Films had planned to make two more features, they were never produced. Darren McGavin would return to acting, starring in the 1974 series “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” (with Simon Oakland) and appearing in scores of television movies and series episodes, as well as theatrical films like Disney’s HOT LEAD AND COLD FEET (1978) and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s RAW DEAL (1986). McGavin would direct only one other film, the 1976 documentary AMERICAN REUNION, which he co-wrote with his wife. He died in 2006 at the age of 83. In addition to ENTER THE DRAGON, Robert Clouse would direct other kung fu movies such as BLACK BELT JONES and THE GAME OF DEATH. He worked into the early 1990s and died in 1997 at age 68. Tessa Dahl had roles in a few other mid-1970s films such as ROYAL FLASH and THE SLIPPER AND THE ROSE. She then left acting for good, to become a writer, wife, and mother.

 Posted:   Feb 12, 2013 - 11:28 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

HAPPY MOTHER'DAY GEORGE-73- has remain obscure in TV LAND since that showing by ABC in the 70's, calling THIS OR TCM UNDERGROUND.

 Posted:   Feb 14, 2013 - 4:07 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Bob, what have you got on a Japanese film called Don't Call Me a Con Man (1964)? And any idea where I could get a copy?

DON’T CALL ME A CON MAN is a dark Japanese fantasy film from the mid-1960s starring Hitoshi Ueki as an ambitious journalist. While investigating a gang of counterfeiters, Ueki makes an astonishing discovery: Adolf Hitler is alive and well and living in Japan. Unfortunately, the reporter has a reputation for fabricating stories, so no one believes him. Meanwhile, Hitler--or at least a guy who looks an awfully lot like him--plots and plans to take over the world with a fleet of battleships.

This film goes by many different titles. Originally “Kureji no Daiboken” (“The Crazy Cat's Big Adventure”), it was shortened to “Crazy Adventure” or “Big Adventure” for most of the world, except for the U.S., where it was inexplicably titled DON’T CALL ME A CON MAN.

The film was directed by Kengo Furusawa, who had been directing since 1952, first as an assistant director and then helming his own films starting in 1959. Several of his earlier films had gotten U.S. releases, including two in 1965--THE GAY BRAGGART and THE SANDAL KEEPER--that also starred Hitoshi Ueki. Ueki was the son of a Buddhist monk. Because of his pacifist views, his father had been imprisoned in his home country during World War II. Ueki was a comedian, singer, and guitarist, who came to fame through the comic jazz-band “The Crazy Cats” led by Hajime Hana. Ueki had been acting for 5 years at the time of DON’T CALL ME A CON MAN.

Appearing as Adolf Hitler was Andrew Hughes, a Turkish-born actor who appeared in a remarkably high number of Japanese films, including KING KONG ESCAPES, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, and TIDAL WAVE. Also appearing in the film are the actresses who played the tiny princesses in the 1959 Japanese monster film MOTHRA. These were the Ito twins - Emi and Yumi - a real-life singing duo known as The Peanuts who even performed on the “The Ed Sullivan Show.” After first appearing in MOTHRA, they became huge stars in Japan and appeared in a handful of other films. DON’T CALL ME A CON MAN was their last film.

The 107-minute film was produced in Tohoscope and Eastmancolor, and was released by Toho in Japan on 31 October 1965. DON’T CALL ME A CON MAN had its U.S. premiere in a subtitled version in Los Angeles on 21 December 1966, but was not widely seen elsewhere in the country. Contemporary reviews of the film cannot be found. The Motion Picture Guide gives the film two stars and allows that its “absurd premise sparks interest for a novelty, at least.”

Reportedly, the film was reissued in the U.S. in June 1993 under the revised title of DON’T CALL ME A CRIME MAN. Toho released the film on a widescreen laserdisc in Japan in January 1994, but the disc has no English subtitles. Toho has also released Region 2 DVDs of the film in both 2001 and 2005 under the title "Big Adventure."

Kengo Furusawa directed films until 1976, with more than 30 films to his credit. Hiroshi Ueki went on to have a lengthy acting career in Japan, but never became an international star. Among his more than 60 roles was a part in Akira Kurosawa’s RAN (1985) for which he received a nomination for the Japan Academy Prize for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role. Ueki also voiced the Roddy McDowall role in the Japanese dubbed version of PLANET OF THE APES. Ueki worked until his death in 2007 at age 80.

 Posted:   Feb 15, 2013 - 6:47 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

Talking about crime films from Japan. It is interesting to notice that checking TV GUIDES from the 60's in many different markets in America that nearly all of the films that got shown in syndication[local TV stations] were of the SCIENCE FICTION VARIETY.The drama's crime action films, pure horror films[ghost stories] etc were for the most part ignored. This remained also true in the 70's. As for cable for the most part, they even ignore most of the SCIFI FILMS as well.

 Posted:   Feb 16, 2013 - 3:49 PM   
 By:   MayaJ   (Member)

What can you find on production details for the 1973 film, "The Paper Chase"?

 Posted:   Feb 16, 2013 - 5:12 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

What can you find on production details for the 1973 film, "The Paper Chase"?

THE PAPER CHASE, a favorite film of mine, is hardly obscure. It was the first major film role for John Houseman, a longtime theatrical producer and co-founder with Orson Welles of The Mercury Theatre. When The Mercury Theatre moved into radio, it became The Mercury Theatre of the Air, and produced one of the most notorious radio plays of all times, 1938's “The War of the Worlds.” In film, Houseman made a name for himself as a screenwriter and story editor, but primarily as a producer (e.g,, 1953’s JULIUS CAESAR; 1962’s TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN). Additionally, Houseman was a force on the legitimate stage, having produced the stage version of Richard Wright's “Native Son” and running a professional theater group at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. It was while in the latter position that Houseman became involved in THE PAPER CHASE, 14 years prior to the release of the film.

One day in the late 1950s, an actor-writer named James Bridges came to Houseman and asked him for menial bits of jobs, the kind usually reserved for interns. In his zeal to learn about the theater, Bridges won Houseman over and the two became good friends. After graduating to writing and directing films, Bridges stayed in touch with his mentor. Once he started casting a new movie called THE PAPER CHASE, and after East Coast locations were decided upon, Bridges and the producers visited the Juilliard School for the Arts, where Houseman had established the acting program, looking to cast the roles of students. Bridges also sent the script to Houseman for recommendations on who he might cast in the crucial role of “Professor Charles W. Kingsfield, Jr,” after the producers' first choice, James Mason, walked out. Houseman suggested Edward G. Robinson and others (Gregory Peck, Melvyn Douglas, Sir John Gielgud, Paul Scofield), but none were available. In a bind, Bridges then had an epiphany: why not Houseman? Once asked, Houseman said he'd be happy to play it, but felt that the studio wouldn't stand for a novice to play such an important part. (Houseman had only appeared on screen in a small role in the 1964 Paramount production of SEVEN DAYS IN MAY.) Houseman was right, and Bridges still didn't have his Kingsfield. Eventually, however, Houseman submitted to a screen test, and based on his performance, the studio realized they were a little too quick to judge against this "novice" actor.

First-billed Timothy Bottoms had made his screen acting debut in 1971, in two high profile films: Dalton Trumbo’s JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN and Peter Bogdanovich’s THE LAST PICTURE SHOW. Co-star Lindsay Wagner had started acting in television in 1971 and had made her feature film debut earlier in 1973 in Robert Wise’s TWO PEOPLE (see posting of December 10, 2012). THE PAPER CHASE marked the feature film debuts of David Clennon, Edward Herrmann, and James Naughton. Writer-director James Bridges had made one prior feature film, 1970’s THE BABY MAKER. Bridges’ script for THE PAPER CHASE was based upon the 1971 novel of the same name by John Jay Osborn, Jr.

Under the working title of “The Bright Young Men,” the film began production in mid-October 1972. The film was shot on location in Cambridge, MA, with the hotel scenes shot at the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto, Canada. Production wrapped up in late December 1972. Producer Robert C. Thompson stated that there were difficulties filming at Harvard University, despite the fact that the book's author was a Harvard alumnus who had written the novel while a law student there. The university had allowed the 1970 Paramount production LOVE STORY to be shot on the campus but was unhappy with the finished film. Consequently, Harvard approved only three days of filming for THE PAPER CHASE, forcing the producers to find a matching location, which they did at the University of Toronto.

John Williams scored the film, with major cues going unused in the final film, and significant scenes being tracked with classical music (Partita No. 4 in D Major and Little Fugue in G Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach; Concerto in D Major for 3 Trumpets, Tympani, 2 Oboes, Strings and Harpsichord by Georg Philipp Telemann). Film Score Monthly released 31 minutes of the score on CD.

The 112-minute, PG-rated film was released by Twentieth Century Fox in Panavision and Color by Deluxe. THE PAPER CHASE first screened at the Atlanta Film Festival on 7 September 1973. It opened commercially in New York on 16 October 1973 and in Los Angeles on 31 October 1973. The film received three Academy Award nominations: Actor in a Supporting Role for Houseman, Sound, and Writing. Houseman was surprised at his nomination. As he wrote in his autobiography, "my first reaction was one of incredulity and vague pleasure, followed by a sense of embarrassment at the realization that for most actors of my age an Academy Award or even a nomination comes as the hard-earned culmination of a long and dedicated career: mine was the reward for ten agreeable days spent with a friend in Toronto!" Houseman won the award for supporting actor.

THE PAPER CHASE has had both cassette and DVD releases. The film was first broadcast on ABC in 1977 and has had many cable airings since then. In 1978, CBS broadcast a television series of “The Paper Chase,” with Houseman reprising his role as Professor Kingsfield and James Stephens playing law student "James T. Hart.” James Bridges developed the series and Robert Thompson was the executive producer for 20th Century Fox Television. The series got killed in the ratings against the #1 and #3 rated series in all of television that year--"Laverne & Shirley" and "Happy Days." It lasted only one season. In 1983, the series became the first network television series to move to cable when the Showtime network revived the series. It lasted for three additional years, encompassing the second, third, and final years in the law studies of James Hart. The last of the 36 Showtime episodes, “The Graduation,” aired on 9 August 1986, a scant 8 years after the eager students had begun their studies on CBS. Houseman died two years later in October 1988.

 Posted:   Feb 18, 2013 - 6:27 PM   
 By:   Mecca   (Member)

Bob, how did you find out that some scenes from "The World's Greatest Athlete" (from page 10 on this thread) were filmed at California State University, Los Angeles? And do you know of any other movies that were filmed at Cal State LA in the early 70's (particularly 1973)?

 Posted:   Feb 19, 2013 - 1:29 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Bob, how did you find out that some scenes from "The World's Greatest Athlete" (from page 10 on this thread) were filmed at California State University, Los Angeles? And do you know of any other movies that were filmed at Cal State LA in the early 70's (particularly 1973)?

That information came from the American Film Insitute Catalog, and is attributed to the film's "pressbook and various contemporary sources." As to other films that were shot at California State University, Los Angeles, if that is the same as California State University Northridge, there are quite a few that show up on this list pulled from the IMDB, though few as early as 1973.

 Posted:   Feb 20, 2013 - 1:37 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Olive Films has released the 1972 espionage thriller INNOCENT BYSTANDERS (see post of August 2, 2012) on Blu-ray and DVD.

 Posted:   Feb 22, 2013 - 4:29 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

BROTHER ON THE RUN was a black action film that was released in mid-1973. The film involves a black professor of English who gets involved with the criminals, prostitutes, and pimps that live in his neighborhood. Starring as the professor was Terry Carter, who had been acting in television since 1957. He had a 4-year run on “The Phil Silvers Show” playing Pvt. Sugie Sugarman. During the 1960s, he primarily guest-starred on shows such as “The Defenders” and “Combat!,” had bit parts in a few films, and actually left acting from 1965 to 1968 to become the world's first black TV anchor newscaster on WBZ-TV in Boston. Returning to acting, in 1970, Carter began co-starring (as Sergeant Joe Broadhurst) with Dennis Weaver in “McCloud,” which would run until 1977. It was during this time that he took on his first major role in a feature film in BROTHER ON THE RUN.

Co-starring with Terry Carter were Gwenn Mitchell as a black hooker, Kyle Johnson as her teenage brother, and James Sikking as a white policeman. Gwenn Mitchell had had some early 1970s television roles and had appeared in SHAFT. Kyle Johnson had started acting in 1963 at the age of 12, and as a teenager had the lead role as a sensitive black youth in Gordon Parks’ first feature film THE LEARNING TREE (1969). James Sikking had been in television since the early 1960s, with some uncredited feature film roles as well. By 1970, he was in constant demand for TV guest star roles, and in 1972 had supporting roles in THE NEW CENTURIONS and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN RIDE!

BROTHER ON THE RUN was produced by 44-year-old Fred Williams (not to be confused with black star Fred Williamson). Williams’ start in the movie business was as inauspicious as one can imagine—he began as a janitor in the Strand Theater in Waterloo, Louisiana. Over the years, he worked his way up to where he was the owner of seven theaters. But Williams’ only prior experience in film production had been as a production manager on the 1971 low-budget sex film NIGHT OF THE ANIMALS.

Directing, editing, and writing the screenplay was Herbert L. Strock. Boston-born Strock's introduction to the movie business was as director of the Fox Newsreel crew, visiting Hollywood stars in their homes. After serving with the Ordnance Motion Picture Division, he found employment as an editor at MGM and later moved into the infant medium of TV, producing and directing "The Cases of Eddie Drake" (1952), the first-ever motion picture film to become a network series. According to Strock’s autobiography, he made the transition to feature film directing in 1953, when (in the midst of production) he took over direction of the sci-fi thriller THE MAGNETIC MONSTER (1953) from Curt Siodmak. (This has not been confirmed, however.) During the 1950s and 1960s, Strock alternated directing low-budget horror/sci-fi films like GOG (1954), I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN (1958), and HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER (1958) with television series such as “Science Fiction Theater,” ‘Highway Patrol,” and “Bronco.”

Under the working title of “Boots Turner,” the film was shot during March of 1973. The distribution history of the film is confused. It’s been confirmed that the film had its world premiere as BROTHER ON THE RUN at the Coronet Theater in Atlanta, GA, on 13 July 1973. The one-sheet poster states that the film was “A Southern Star Release,” but while confirming this, Boxoffice magazine also stated that “Harnell Independent Productions of Atlanta has national distribution rights to the picture.” The IMDB also names Rowland-Williams as a distributor.

In its review of the film, Boxoffice called it “as topical a yarn reflecting the uneasiness of race violence and turbulence as can be found on mid-1973 release charts.” The review also commended the cast, who “project their demanding delineations with forcefulness, of the quality that spells audience attention, and no greater commendation can be accorded the performing ranks.” But on the whole, the film was not heavily reviewed or seen. Modern reviewers are scarce as well. Leonard Maltin’s book doesn’t even mention the film, and The Videohound Movie Retriever gives the film one and a half stars, with no further comment.

The film also had some showings under the title of BOOTS TURNER, with another distributor, Schuyler Beattie Releasing, being mentioned in connection with those showings. Various sources give the film’s running time as 81, 85, or 90 minutes.

The film’s score was by Johnny Pate, who had just completed his well-received film scoring debut for SHAFT IN AFRICA. Pate is an important figure in Chicago soul as well as pop/R&B music. Born in Chicago Heights, IL, in 1923, he learned to play piano and tuba as a child. Later while serving in the Army, he picked up the bass and learned arranging. For BROTHER ON THE RUN, he provided a score that was primarily light jazz, punctuated by some rousing funk. The score was released on LP by Perception Records. That LP has never had a U.S. CD release, but a British CD was issued on the Castle Records label in 2002, and reissued on the Cascavelle label in 2005. Those CDs are out of print, but the recording is currently available as a download from Amazon.

Here is the funky 5-minute musical opening to the film:

And here’s a sample from the main title song, sung by Adam Wade:

Although a 1973 copyright by Fred Williams Productions appears in the onscreen credits, the film was not actually registered for copyright. BROTHER ON THE RUN was released on a Prism Entertainment cassette, under the title MAN ON THE RUN. (It may also have been released on video as BLACK FORCE 2, even though the film is in no way related to the 1975 film BLACK FORCE.) After that early cassette, however, BROTHER ON THE RUN has remained unavailable for the past 25 years. The cassette cover has James B. Sikking as the top-billed actor rather than Terry Carter, probably because of Sikking’s prominent role in the then-popular television series “Hill Street Blues.”

Terry Carter would have major roles in three 1974 films--FOXY BROWN, BENJI, and ABBY—then return to “McCloud” and other television work for the remainder of his career (e.g., the original “Battlestar Galactica,” “The Fall Guy”). At age 84, he lives most of the year in Scandinavia, and has generally been out of acting for 10 years. Gwenn Mitchell would appear in the 1974 film CHOSEN SURVIVORS, then be in television (“Amy Prentiss,” “Police Story”) until she left acting at the end of the 1970s. Kyle Johnson had only a few more roles (one of them on “McCloud”) before leaving acting in the mid-1970s. Although James B. Sikking would have small roles in THE TERMINAL MAN (1974) and CAPRICORN ONE (1978), he spent most of his time in television. In 1981, he began a 6-year run on the breakthrough television police show “Hill Street Blues,” playing SWAT-team commander Lt. Howard Hunter. Additional television work followed the end of that series, most notably as the father of “Doogie Howser, M.D.” (1989-1993). Sikking continues to work today at age 78.

Following BROTHER ON THE RUN, neither producer Fred Williams nor director Herbert L. Strock would ever have a significant role in a film production again. Strock finished out his career as he began it, as an editor, and died in 2005 at the age of 87. Composer Johnny Pate would have a few more film scoring assignments, most notably for the “Shaft” television series and the 1975 feature BUCKTOWN, before leaving film scoring at the end of the 1970s.

 Posted:   Feb 22, 2013 - 9:37 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

BROTHER ON THE RUN has remain obscure when it comes to TV land, nowhere in sight in decades on free TV or cable.

 Posted:   Feb 22, 2013 - 9:40 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

NIGHT OF THE ANIMALS-71- talk about obscure, this film is even a challange for genre experts?

 Posted:   Feb 24, 2013 - 6:41 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

THE WHITE LIONS-81- Starring MICHAEL YORK . Saw film on HBO at a motel decades ago. Have not seen it around since. Someone know where it went ? it was a touching animal film.

 Posted:   Feb 27, 2013 - 1:33 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

By: Nyborg (Member)

Does anyone remember Biggles?
A mid 80s adventure movie, a reworking of the classic British WW1 hero involving... time travel i think.
i remember digging it as a kid, but i've never seen it come up since, not once.
was it that bad?

By: dan the man (Member)

TO NYBORG- BIGGLES, has been rare on cable over the years, i remember it was on the SCIFI CHANNEL a long time ago early, mid 90's. I thought it was not bad, nothing to write home about, it was i believe the last feature lenght film for Peter Cushing.I remember seeing it on You tube a while back.

By: Greg1138 (Member)

Biggles was on TV in the UK at the back end of last's not bad film at's just a bad "Biggles" film. And yes, it was Cushing's last film, though he had a few years' peace to enjoy his birdwatching before he passed away a few years later.

By: Nyborg (Member)

aha, i traded tv in for netflix about a year ago. But at the rate the American one, which i switched to recently, pulls obscure films out of the bag, especially if it has been on cable, as dan the man pointed out, it's bound to turn up there sooner or later.
it got the full works upon release though, in Europe at least, I remember having and reading the novelization n'everything.

By: Greg1138 (Member)

Yeah, it seemed to a lowly 12-year old that it was a big event movie

Biggles (a nickname for James Bigglesworth), is a pilot and adventurer and is the title character and main hero of the “Biggles” series of youth-oriented adventure books written by English author W. E. Johns. The character first appeared in the story "The White Fokker," published in the first issue of Popular Flying magazine, in 1932. The first collection of Biggles stories, The Camels are Coming, was published that same year. The series was continued until the author's death in 1968, eventually spanning nearly a hundred volumes – including novels and short story collections.

In 1986, Pom Oliver, an experienced woman polar explorer and sometime film producer, produced a film version of BIGGLES which starred Neil Dickson as “Biggles,” Alex Hyde-White as “Jim Ferguson,” and Peter Cushing in his final feature film role as “William Raymond.” Pom Oliver had produced a half-dozen prior projects, but none approached the scope of BIGGLES. The film was directed by veteran British film and television director John Hough. Hough had directed the Hammer horror film TWINS OF EVIL (1971) in addition to such well-known genre films as THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973), DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY (1975), and BRASS TARGET (1978). Hough also directed the Disney films ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN (1975) (and it’s 1978 sequel) and THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS (1980).

Although Dudley Moore was at one time considered for the role of Biggles, Neil Dickson ultimately got the part. Dickson had made his name on the British stage and on English television, which brought him to the attention of the producers of NBC's 12-hour mini-series "Anno Domini (A.D.)" where in 1985 he co-starred opposite Ian McShane, Susan Sarandon, James Mason, and Ava Gardner. This led directly to Dickson playing the title role of James Bigglesworth. Alex Hyde-White got his first acting break when his father was appearing in the pilot for "Battlestar Galactica" (1978) and Universal was auditioning young actors to play Viper pilots. He acted primarily in television movies and series for Universal (“Quincy, M.E.;” “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”) in the early 1980s. BIGGLES was his first major feature film.

In the film, unassuming catering salesman Jim Ferguson (Hyde-White) falls through a time hole to 1917 where he saves the life of dashing Royal Flying Corps pilot James "Biggles" Bigglesworth (Dickson) after his photo recon mission is shot down. Before he can work out what has happened, Jim is zapped back to the 1980s. With assistance from Biggles' former commanding officer Raymond (Cushing) who lives in the Tower Bridge in London, Ferguson learns that he and Biggles are "time twins", spontaneously travelling through time when one or the other is in mortal danger. Together, Ferguson and Biggles fight across time and against the odds to stop the Germans from changing the course of history, by destroying a "Sound Weapon" with a Metropolitan police helicopter that was stolen by Biggles while escaping a SWAT Team in 1986 London.

The film is notably unfaithful to the original works. In addition to the introduction of a science-fiction plot, the continuity of the Biggles universe was largely ignored by the screenplay. The original script called for an adventure film in the mold of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and would have been much more faithful to Johns' original novels. But during filming, BACK TO THE FUTURE was released and became a major hit, so the script was altered to include the time travel element, in the hopes of riding on the popularity of that film.

BIGGLES was shot mostly on location in London and in the surrounding counties. Some of the aerial sequences were shot near Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire. The weapon testing ground in the 1917 scene is Beckton Gas Works. The Bond film FOR YOUR EYES ONLY had used this location for its pre-title sequence. The year after BIGGLES, FULL METAL JACKET also made considerable use of the Gas Works location for its Vietnam scenes.

The film’s score was by Stanislas Syrewicz, billed simply as “Stanislas” in the film. MCA released a song and score LP in Great Britain and Germany, but not in the U.S. Syrewicz’ most well-known score had been for the previous year’s Michael Caine thriller THE HOLCROFT COVENANT. He composed two songs for BIGGLES, including the anthem “Do You Want To be a Hero,” seen here in this music video as sung by Jon Anderson, who also supplied the lyrics:

BIGGLES was released in Britain on 30 May 1986. Variety took a liking to the “stylish romp,” found the acting “uniformly lively,” and declared that “technically, [the] pic is top notch, especially aerial sequences using vintage biplanes.” But perhaps inadvertently stumbling upon the film’s ultimate problem, Variety felt that the film “has all the makings of a solid draw in countries where older audiences are familiar with the fictional hero.” It was perhaps because the film could not bridge the gap between the older audiences who were familiar with the books and the younger audiences who the film needed to attract that it was poorly received by other critics and audiences in general. In London’s Time Out magazine, critic Anne Billson shouted that the film contained “Sci-fi! Special Effects! Disco dogfights! Americans!” and proclaimed the result to be “Biggles! Boggles! Buggles! Bunkum!”

It wasn’t until a year and a half later that the film was picked up for U.S. release by a tiny distributor called New Century Vista Film Company. BIGGLES was their first release, and New Century opened the PG-rated film on 29 January 1988. The distributor re-titled the film BIGGLES: ADVENTURES IN TIME, in deference to American audiences who were unfamiliar with the Biggles character and literary history. It was fruitless. The film grossed a paltry $112,000 in U.S. theaters.

Looking at the film through modern eyes, reviewers are mixed on BIGGLES. Leonard Maltin gives the film two stars and terms it “curious” and “occasionally entertaining.” Steven H. Scheuer, in his book Movies on TV and Videocassette gives the film one and a half stars and calls it a “flat , unimaginative fantasy” that is “lifeless and mechanical, especially for American audiences.” On the other hand, the Blockbuster Guide to Movies and Videos awards the film 4 stars out of 5, finding that the “novel use of the time travel device holds up, often providing humor with its action.” Even so, Blockbuster notes that “Anglophiles may enjoy it most.” Perhaps the The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies best sums up the consensus by terming BIGGLES “watchable and somewhat engaging, but not memorable.”

Reportedly, the UK version of the film ran for 108 minutes, but it generally played at shorter lengths elsewhere, down to as low as 85 minutes.

In 1988, New World Video issued BIGGLES on VHS and New World/Image Entertainment issued the film on laserdisc. In 2004, Image released the film on DVD, but that release is now out-of-print and has asking prices of $50+. The DVD is listed as running 108 minutes, while the VHS and laserdisc are listed at 100 minutes.

An excellent looking widescreen version of the film is currently on YouTube, but it runs only 93-minutes, somewhat shy of even the 100 minute laserdisc version.

Pom Oliver would produce a few more projects, mostly for British television. In 1997, she formed a part of the relay team which reached the North Pole. Then in 1999/2000 she was a part of the M&G Polar Team, making her one of the five who became the first British all-women's team to ski to the South Pole. She currently owns and runs Woodland Skills in West Sussex. Director John Hough would spend most of the rest of his career in British television. Neil Dickson continued to act in television, moving to Los Angeles in 1990 to star in a short-lived Universal series called “She-Wolf of London.” Over the years he has alternated acting jobs with considerable voice-over work in television cartoons and feature animation such as BEOWULF. He continues to work in L.A. today.

Alex Hyde-White has acted mainly in television in the years following BIGGLES, but he did have significant roles in the features PRETTY WOMAN, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, and CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. His most recent role was as Senator Lindsey Graham in the 2012 cable film on Sarah Palin, “Game Change.” Composer Stanislas Syrewicz would go on to score Ken Russell’s film THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988) and the cable movie STALIN starring Robert Duvall (1992). New Century Vista Film Company stayed in business for 3 years, and released films such as 1987’s RUSSKIES and NIGHTFLYERS, which had its Doug Timm soundtrack LP released by Varese Sarabande.

 Posted:   Feb 27, 2013 - 3:23 AM   
 By:   Buscemi   (Member)

A slight correction: the first release of New Century Vista was not Biggles but the 1986 film The Wraith. Their most successful film was The Gate in 1987, which narrowly beat Ishtar to the top spot on opening weekend (another fun fact: The Gate and Ishtar not only opened on the same day but in the exact number of theatres as well).

 Posted:   Feb 27, 2013 - 1:24 PM   
 By:   vinylscrubber   (Member)

Here's a keeper from 1973--GROUND ZERO, concerning an atom bomb being placed on the Golden Gate Bridge as an extortion device to net the plotters 40 million dollars.

I caught this at a Market Street cinema back in the day, where the film got a San Francisco premiere as it starred a semi-well known DJ from the Bay Area, Ron Casteel, who plays the whole film in a white turtleneck and camelshair jacket, carrying a wolfshead cane. (You can tell where the producers' heads were at with their casting of then popular San Francisco topless dancer Yvonne D'Angiers as the films femme fatale.)

It was a laughable effort that had the one redeeming feature of having actually been granted permission to shoot at the top of the bridge, resulting in some stomach-churning shots in an otherwise ridiculous effort, full of mediocre staging, and really bad acting.

I've never seen it run on TV and only these VHS graphics give evidence of it's existence online.

 Posted:   Feb 27, 2013 - 7:15 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

BIGGLES- has remained pretty obscure in TV LAND, after getting shown on THE SCIFI CHANNEL in the 90's, the film has not gotten much exposure on cable movie networks. Maybe someday TCM underground can have a double feature BIGGLES AND DOC SAVAGE-[75]

 Posted:   Feb 28, 2013 - 2:28 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

A slight correction: the first release of New Century Vista was not Biggles but the 1986 film The Wraith. Their most successful film was The Gate in 1987, which narrowly beat Ishtar to the top spot on opening weekend (another fun fact: The Gate and Ishtar not only opened on the same day but in the exact number of theatres as well).

You are correct, THE WRAITH was the first film released in the U.S. by New Century Vista. Actually, I was completely wrong, in that New Century Vista distributed 11 films in the U.S. prior to BIGGLES. BIGGLES happened to be the first film produced of all the ones New Century Vista distributed.

 Posted:   Mar 2, 2013 - 11:48 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

MONEY MONEY MONEY was the U.S. title of a 1972 French film called “L’aventure c’est L’aventure” (“Adventure Is Adventure”). Via flashbacks, the light-hearted film follows five criminals who are being tried on several counts of extortion and kidnapping and explores how they arrived at their current predicament. The film was presented in the U.S. by G.S.F. Productions and distributed by Cinerama Releasing.

After the release of 1971’s SMIC, SMAC, SMOC, which was a 16mm, $30,000 experiment in low-budget filmmaking, 36-year-old director Claude Lelouch returned to full-scale production with MONEY MONEY MONEY. Lelouch had first made his mark in America in 1966, with the Oscar-winning A MAN AND A WOMAN. He had followed that up with the less well received LIVE FOR LIFE (1967) and LOVE IS A FUNNY THING (1969). But MONEY MONEY MONEY, for which Lelouch also wrote the screenplay, was more in line with his 1970 film THE CROOK. Indeed, three of THE CROOK’s performers, Charles Denner, Charles Gerard, and Aldo Maccione were also on hand for MONEY MONEY MONEY.

Starring in the film were Lino Ventura and Jacques Brel. Ventura became one of France's most beloved character actors starting in the 1950s. He had recently appeared in Henri Verneuil’s THE SICILIAN CLAN (1969) and had been seen by mainstream U.S. audiences in 1972’s THE VALACHI PAPERS. Jacques Brel was most famous as a singer-songwriter. His songs have been translated in many different languages, and have been covered by Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, and David Bowie among many others. In 1966, when he was more successful than ever, he quit performing on stage and instead became an actor in musicals and films.

The film’s score was by longtime Lelouch collaborator Francis Lai. The film’s title song had lyrics by Catherine Desage and was sung by Johnny Hallyday (who also had a major role in the film). An LP was issued by United Artists in France, but there was no U.S. release, and the album has never been issued on CD.

Here’s how the title song is presented in the film:

MONEY MONEY MONEY was filmed in Paris. It opened in France on 4 May 1972, and quickly became one of the top grossing films of the year. The film was shown out of competition at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival. Variety’s Paris correspondent “Mosk” wrote that the picture did “not quite have Lelouch’s usual breeziness,” and was therefore “overlong, repetitive and not lively nor inventive enough for a gagster-gangster ‘caper’ picture.” When the filmed opened in the U.S. on 25 March 1973, it was cut by 5 minutes to 115 minutes, and received a very diverse critical reaction. Some reviewers, sided with the New York Times’ Howard Thompson that this “bright, clever comedy-satire” was filled with moments of “sassiness and visual punctuation of slapstick.” Others supported the San Francisco Chronicle’s Anitra Earle that the “forgettable” comedy was a “broad, thin slapstick” whose “few scenes of antic whimsy foundered in a heavily-padded wayward plot.”

Siding with Thompson, Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times hailed the ‘sit-back-and-enjoy escapist entertainment” for its “series of breathtakingly audacious capers” which “deftly satirize the amorality of our times.” In agreement, Newsweek’s Paul D. Zimmerman also positively responded to the film’s “ridicule of bourgeois values, amused cynicism, and the conviction that ‘getting away with things’ is proof of moral superiority.” But Roger Ebert thoroughly disagreed. In a one-star review, he argued that this kind of “slapstick stuff” failed to work because Lelouch “throws away laughs with his lazy timing” (“He holds some of his shots so long that any possible humor simply dissipates.”) And Gary Arnold of The Washington Post thought the film was “a rather contemptible example of synthetic filmmaking, a caper movie so pleased with its gratuitous devices and complacently mercenary world-view that it sets my teeth on edge.”

MONEY MONEY MONEY appeared in the U.S. on a 2003 Image Entertainment DVD (now out-of-print), in a subtitled version under its original title of “L’aventure c’est L’aventure.” The film has had several DVD releases in France.

Claude Lelouch would have a lengthy directing career, with more than 50 films to his credit. Among them are ANOTHER MAN, ANOTHER CHANCE (1977), which had its soundtrack released by Kritzerland in 2011, A MAN AND A WOMAN: 20 YEARS LATER (1988), and a 1995 version of LES MISERABLES starring Jean-Paul Belmondo. He is still directing today. Lino Ventura would continue acting right up until he died in 1987 at age 68. Among his more than 70 films were Lelouch’s HAPPY NEW YEAR (1973), THE MEDUSA TOUCH (1978), and the role of Jean Valjean in Robert Hossein’s 1982 version of LES MISERABLES. Jacques Brel would appear in three more films before tragically dying of lung cancer in 1978 at the age of 49.

 Posted:   Mar 5, 2013 - 11:21 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

By: JACKFU: This one is probably too lowbrow for this thread, but I think “Caltiki, the Immortal Monster” had some good ideas. Some of the scenes were inspired and well done. The acting was mostly atrocious, the dubbing terrible, special effects very low-tech but I thought the monster was not that bad, effect-wise, even scary in some scenes. This movie, a more graphic knockoff of “The Blob”, terrified me as a child. Anyone remember Caltiki?
By: dan the man (Member)

TO JACKFU- yes i remember CATIKI as a kid as well, was on often on CHANNEL 9 [WOR-TV] IN NEW YORK.You said it. bad dubbing, low key effects yet some eerie scenes, for sure near the end, You can check it out on YOU TUBE, I saw it there a couple of years ago and my critical viewpoint of it was just like i thought as a kid.

CALTIKI, THE IMMORTAL MONSTER was a 1959 Italian film that Allied Artists picked up for distribution in the U.S. in 1960. In 1988, the film was re-registered for copyright by an outfit called Telewide Systems, Inc. Prior to this, in 1986, Telewide had been found liable in a breach of contract suit with one Herbert Jovy. Jovy and his partners had licensed a number of films from Telewide for distribution overseas, only to find out that Telewide didn't control the rights to many of the films to which they had sold Jovy licenses. Telewide was ordered to pay damages to Jovy and others of more than $6 million. Subsequently, Telewide went bankrupt and was liquidated. In 1993. CALTIKI and about 90 other films previously owned by Telewide were transferred to Jovy by the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee. Jovy presumably controls the films to this day.

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