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 Posted:   Jun 7, 2012 - 9:50 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

After the success of a series of Walt Disney nature documentary shorts entitled "True-Life Adventures," the studio decided to make a feature-length version. THE LIVING DESERT was the first in a series of six feature-length "True-Life Adventure" films, which presented expertly photographed footage of the wonders and oddities of the natural world. All of the six films were produced by Ben Sharpsteen, directed by James Algar and featured narration by Winston Hibler.

THE LIVING DESERT begins with the following written prologue: “This True-Life Adventure is a drama as old as time itself. But seldom seen by human eyes, nature sets the stage and provides the actors. Only through the endless patience of skilled photographers has it been possible to view this strange and unusual world.” An animated hand then paints a globe and various maps. Narration is heard throughout the film explaining the images, and animation is mixed with live-action photography. Some sequences involve special effects and whimsical music, such as the scorpion mating scene, which is edited to appear as if they are sharing a square-dance, and a sequence of flowers blooming in time-lapse photography. Sequences were created from both original and stock footage, edited to appear chronological.

A man named N. Paul Kenworthy, Jr. began photographing the Great American Desert region as part of his thesis at the University of California, Los Angeles. He then sent footage to Walt Disney, who hired him, along with Robert H. Crandall, to shoot more desert footage for the studio over the next two years. Kenworthy and Crandall photographed all of the footage used in the film except for four sequences filmed by other photographers.

Paul Smith scored the film. A soundtrack was issued on an RCA extended play record, along with a 24-page illustrated booklet. The soundtrack was reissued on a Buena Vista LP in 1965, along with Smith’s score for another “True-Life Adventure” feature, 1954’s THE VANISHING PRAIRIE. Those two films were theatrically re-released as a double bill in 1971.

Walt Disney had originally been discouraged from doing the initial True-Life shorts, even by people within his own organization. When he embarked on the feature enterprise, he met with resistance from RKO, his long-time distributor. This caused a falling out between the organizations. Consequently, when THE LIVING DESERT opened in New York on 9 November 1953, Disney independently distributed the picture. Shortly thereafter, Disney set up Buena Vista Film Distribution Co., which became Disney's releasing arm in 1954 and released the studio's subsequent productions. Since THE LIVING DESERT ran only 69 minutes, the film was theatrically released with the shorts “Ben and Me” (21 minutes) and “Stormy, the Thoroughbred.” The latter film was subsequently developed into a short 46-minute feature the following year.

Although THE LIVING DESERT garnered much praise, including the 1953 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, it also received criticism for tampering with documentary footage by inserting "jokey" stop-motion photography and musical humor. The “scorpion dance” came in for particular criticism. Reviewers disdained anthropomorphizing the animals, which, as the New York Times’ Bosley Crowther asserted, "isn't true to life” But Crowther acknowledged that “Mr. Disney's earnest people have done a remarkable job of collecting some extraordinary footage, and his editors have assembled it well for excitement and fascination.” Disney took the criticism to heart, however, and subsequent True-Life features would downplay that type of manipulation.

THE LIVING DESERT also won the Berlin Film Festival's Best Documentary and audience favorite awards. The film cost $300,000 and grossed about $5 million in its first release. The film was released on cassette in 1998 and on DVD in 2006, as part of the Walt Disney Legacy Collection - True Life Adventures, Vol. 2 set.

 Posted:   Jun 8, 2012 - 10:02 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

I haven't commented on Disney's THE WORLD'S GREATEST ATHLETE, since I plan on watching that film in the near future. Instead, here is another obscure film of my choosing.

ONE MORE TRAIN TO ROB was a western released by Universal in 1971. This little-seen film starred George Peppard as a leader of a gang of train robbers who have a falling out. The cast also included Diana Muldaur, John Vernon, and France Nuyen.

For such a minor film, it had a good pedigree. Producer Robert Arthur had been responsible for some of Universal’s most successful movies (OPERATION PETTICOAT, LOVER COME BACK, SHENANDOAH). ONE MORE TRAIN TO ROB was his 52nd film. Director Andrew V. McLaglen was an old hand at directing westerns, starting with B-westerns back in the early 1950s, and continuing through such major films as John Wayne’s McLINTOCK (1963) and Jimmy Stewart’s BANDOLERO! (1968). His two films prior to ONE MORE TRAIN TO ROB had been the Wayne westerns THE UNDEFEATED (1969) and CHISUM (1970). David Shire scored the film, and also composed a song, “Havin’ Myself a Fine Time,” with lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr.

Originally titled “H. Fleet, Robber,” ONE MORE TRAIN TO ROB was a quickie production filmed at Universal Studios from 9 March to early April 1970, with location scenes shot elsewhere in Southern California. Upon its limited release in May 1971, it met with a divided critical response. Ann Guarino of the N.Y. Daily News wrote that this “nicely packaged” and “action-packed western” “entertains and holds interest,” primarily thanks to George Peppard’s “engaging” performance. And Cue magazine called the film an “engagingly corny guns-gold-and-greed western” that was “offbeat and entertaining.”

But Roger Greenspun of the New York Times felt that the movie was “too lax, too slow, too mechanical, too timid in its inventions.” And other critics like Newsday’s Jerry Parker called the film “undistinguished” and “tired” and blamed both the producer and director who “persist in churning out hack work that belongs on TV, where you can at least change stations without feeling that you were cheated out of your $2.50.” Parker’s likening of the film to a made-for-TV movie proved prophetic: A mere 5 months after its East and West Coast premieres, ONE MORE TRAIN TO ROB was telecast nationwide as an NBC network movie, which is the one and only time I’ve seen it.

The film has never been on any video format, but has been shown more recently on the Encore Western channel.

 Posted:   Jun 8, 2012 - 3:45 PM   
 By:   vinylscrubber   (Member)

There are lots of late 60's-early 70's Universal films that don't show up too often or haven't had any kind of home video release--THREE INTO TWO WON'T GO, HOUSE OF CARDS, SECRET CEREMONY, and another George Peppard obscurity, P.J. (Geez, remember that guy pulled to his death when he gets his coat sleeve caught on the subway car pulling out? And that excruciatingly un-P.C. scene where a pack of "violent gays" beat up Peppard for his troubles in a bar called "The Gay Cabellero"--no wonder that one doesn't show any more.)

Thanks for your superlative research on all these lost gems, Bob. You're better than IMDB.

 Posted:   Jun 9, 2012 - 4:03 PM   
 By:   Ryan Brennan   (Member)

THE REVENGERS has never been on any video format in the U.S., and has virtually disappeared. Like other Cinema Center Films, it is likely controlled by Paramount, although this film’s ownership may be complicated by the Mexican production company’s involvement.

Sounds like I should hold onto my P&S DVD-R burn from a VHS tape recording of a TV broadcast, bad as it is.

 Posted:   Jun 9, 2012 - 4:38 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

To Vinylscrubber- In the late 60's and early 70's many of the Universal films made in the late 60's were shown, once or Twice on NBC Prime time movies, which then included NBC Saturday night at the movies. NBC Monday night at the movies and NBC Tuesday night at the movies.Well shortly afterward in the early 70's a big package of those Universal films were put into Syndication and shown to death on local stations or Indie stations, In New York it was WOR-TV- CH 9 which bought the big package and shown those movies over and over again to death throughout the 70's, however as the media industry change in the 80's, video, cable, less film packages bought by the indie stations, those Universal films for the most part became pretty obscure, except for a few like Night Gallery, Coogan's bluff etc etc, hear are a bunch of those films shown on NBC, then shown often in Syndication but have been obscure of late-P.J-68-EYE OF THE CAT-69-COLLUSSUS THE FORBIN PROJECT-70-THE MOVIE MURDERER-70[TV]- TOBRUK-67[IS ON ONCE IN A WHILE]-ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO-67-A LOVELY WAY TO DIE-68-SECRET WAR OF HENRY FRIGG-68-HOUSE OF CARDS-68-NIGHT OF THE FOLLOWING DAY-69-CHANGE OF HABIT-69[ON CABLE ONCE IN A WHILE]-ANGEL IN MY POCKET-68-THE WAR WAGON-67[CHECK WESTERN CHANNEL]-MISSION BATANGAS-67-OPERATION CROSS EAGLES-69-THREE INTO TWO WON'T GO-69-THE LOVE GOD-69-THE RELECTANT ASTRONAUT-67-TEXAS ACROSS THE RIVER-66-[CHECK WESTERN CHANNEL]-THE LOST MAN-69-SKULLDUGGERY-70-JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN-69-BOOM-68-IN SEARCH OF GREGORY-70-will list more shortly

 Posted:   Jun 9, 2012 - 5:01 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)


 Posted:   Jun 9, 2012 - 5:15 PM   
 By:   Mr Greg   (Member)



 Posted:   Jun 9, 2012 - 5:28 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

nothing wrong, all film titles should be in capital?

 Posted:   Jun 9, 2012 - 6:04 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

TO GREG-1138- You might like to know when i was a young man or lad, i worked in a accounting firm and one of my early jobs were to deliver papers to entertainment people, on Wednesday mornings, i would deliver important papers to Sigourney Weaver in her apartment on West 72nd street in New York, she would offer me pop, coffee etc while i waited in her living room as she sign the important papers in her bedroom, this would usually take a half hour, i went there many times, one time i could sware she gave me a come on look as she went into the bedroom, mind you she then, i guess were in her early 30's i was a young 19, anyway of course a nice person like me , nothing happened, but i thought since you mentioned on your profile her name you might find this of interest.

 Posted:   Jun 9, 2012 - 6:34 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

ESCAPE FROM THE DARK-77- This was one of the most obscure of Disney films, didn't get a big release when it opened, have not seen it on free TV or Cable in years if ever, it's a drama starring Alastair Sims, Any comments?

 Posted:   Jun 9, 2012 - 11:32 PM   
 By:   Mr Greg   (Member)

TO GREG-1138- You might like to know when i was a young man or lad, i worked in a accounting firm and one of my early jobs were to deliver papers to entertainment people, on Wednesday mornings, i would deliver important papers to Sigourney Weaver in her apartment on West 72nd street in New York, she would offer me pop, coffee etc while i waited in her living room as she sign the important papers in her bedroom, this would usually take a half hour, i went there many times, one time i could sware she gave me a come on look as she went into the bedroom, mind you she then, i guess were in her early 30's i was a young 19, anyway of course a nice person like me , nothing happened, but i thought since you mentioned on your profile her name you might find this of interest.

You utter, utter, lucky b*****d!!!!!! She is number one on my celebrity passlist...

 Posted:   Jun 10, 2012 - 11:16 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Here’s the Region 1 video availability of those Universal films mentioned by Dan:

AMBUSH BAY (66) – (Released by United Artists, not Universal) - DVD
THE BALLAD OF JOSIE (68) – MOD DVD from Universal Vault Series
BOOM (68) – VHS only
COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT (70) - Pan-and-scan DVD; only the laserdisc was in widescreen
HELLFIGHTERS (69) – Separate DVD and part of a John Wayne Screen Legend collection
IN SEARCH OF GREGORY (70) – N/A (was broadcast on TCM about 2 years ago)
THE LOST MAN (69) – VHS only
THE LOVE GOD (69) – Separate DVD and part of a Don Knotts collection
A LOVELY WAY TO DIE (68) - MOD DVD from Universal Vault Series
A MAN CALLED GANNON (68) – N/A (Region 2, PAL DVD from Spain)
MISSION BATANGAS (67) (Released by Manson Distributing Corp., not Universal) – N/A
NIGHT OF THE FOLLOWING DAY (69) – Separate DVD and part of a Marlon Brando collection
OPERATION CROSS EAGLES (69) (Released by Continental Distributing, not Universal) – VHS only (from SVS, Inc.)
P.J (68) – N/A
THE RELECTANT ASTRONAUT (67) – Separate DVD and part of a Don Knotts collection
ROSIE (67) – N/A
ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO (67) - MOD DVD from Universal Vault Series
THE SECRET WAR OF HARRY FRIGG (68) - MOD DVD from Universal Vault Series
TELL THEM WILLIE BOY IS HERE (69) – MOD DVD from Universal Vault Series
TEXAS ACROSS THE RIVER (66) – VHS and laserdisc only
TOBRUK (67) – VHS; Also available for pre-order as MOD DVD from Universal Vault Series (no release date set)
TOPAZ (69) - Separate DVD and part of an Alfred Hitchcock collection
THE WAR WAGON (67) - Separate DVD and part of a John Wayne Screen Legend collection

 Posted:   Jun 10, 2012 - 10:07 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

1973 was Walt Disney’s 50th year of production. The first of Disney’s four film offerings that year was THE WORLD’S GREATEST ATHLETE. The film was about a perennially losing college coach and his assistant, who on a trip to Africa, come across a Tarzan-like young man who is able to excel at any sport. They bring the young man back to campus, and the fun begins.

Tim Conway received top billing as the bumbling assistant coach, in his first of many films for Disney. John Amos was the coach, and Jan-Michael Vincent was the star athlete, each in his only Disney film. Roscoe Lee Browne played a Oxford-educated African witch doctor. Actress-comedian Nancy Walker, who had a brief comic role as a near-sighted landlady, had not appeared onscreen since LUCKY ME, released in 1954. THE WORLD’S GREATEST ATHLETE marked the final film of character actor and comedian Billy De Wolfe (1907--1974), who appeared in the small role of "Dean Maxwell." Although De Wolfe had appeared periodically on television, he had not made a feature film since BILLIE, released in 1965. THE WORLD’S GREATEST ATHLETE marked the film debut of Canadian-born dancer and model Dayle Haddon, who played Jan-Michael Vincent’s college love interest, as well as the debut of the Bengal tiger "G.T." as "Harri."

THE WORLD’S GREATEST ATHLETE was one of only three features directed by Robert Scheerer, a long-time television director, who in a nearly 40-year career directed everything from Barbra Streisand’s TV concert “A Happening In Central Park” (1968) to “Dynasty” (1983) to “Star Trek: Voyager” (1997). Rather than being scored by Disney’s ubiquitous Buddy Baker, THE WORLD’S GREATEST ATHLETE instead had a sprightly score by Marvin Hamlisch. The score included a band number, the "Merrivale Fight Song," with music by Hamlisch and lyrics by screenwriters Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso. A 45 RPM record was issued with two of Hamlisch’s themes.

The film was shot on location near Stockton, CA in Caswell Memorial State Park, which was used for some of the Zambia sequences, and at various sites throughout Southern California, including exteriors and interiors at the Hollywood-Burbank Airport in Burbank, CA (renamed the Bob Hope Airport in 2003), the athletic field at California State University, Los Angeles and Newhall, in Southern California, which was used as the location site for China. In addition to Caswell Memorial State Park, Lion Country Safari in Irvine, CA was also used for some of the Zambia sequences.

Production began on THE WORLD’S GREATEST ATHLETE in Stockton, CA on 24 April 1972. But on 28 April, actor-comedian Godfrey Cambridge, who was initially cast in the role of Coach, collapsed from exhaustion. The production closed for several weeks but resumed on 14 May, with John Amos taking over Cambridge's role. Production continued through early August 1972.

The film had a number of special effects sequences, ranging from the simple, like showing action in either slow or speeded-up motion to emphasize the athletic prowess of "Nanu" (Jan-Michael Vincent), to effects that were much more elaborate. Tim Conway, as "Milo Jackson," was featured alone in several sequences that highlighted his popular abilities as a physical comedian. One long sequence, which was periodically interrupted with scenes that advanced the plot, involved his character shrinking to three-inches tall and attempting to free himself from a cocktail glass and a woman's large purse.

THE WORLD’S GREATEST ATHLETE opened in New York on 1 February 1973 to lukewarm reviews. On the positive side were Roger Ebert, who found the film to be “a silly, funny, relaxed fantasy, and just about the best movie to come from Walt Disney Productions since BLACKBEARD’S GHOST” (1968). Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times praised the film’s integrated casting (with John Amos and Roscoe Lee Browne having prominent roles), praised all of the performances, and found in the script by Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso “an uncommon in-ness amid the jollity.”

While no one seemed to hate the film, other critics were more mixed in their assessments. Newday’s Martin Levine imagined “that the picture’s intended audience of pre-teenagers will enjoy it; I can report that it is painless enough for adults.” And Ann Guarino of the New York Daily News agreed that “youngsters will find the mild comedy more entertaining than the rest of the family, for the film unfortunately has a seen-before quality.” One prediction that definitely was spot-on came from Variety’s “Murf” who opined that the film “looks good for boxoffice.” THE WORLD’S GREATEST ATHLETE became the ninth highest-grossing film of 1973, taking in over $11,600,000 at the North American box office. A 1981 re-release increased its total to over $22.5 million.

A few months after THE WORLD’S GREAT ATHLETE opened, the April 1973 issue of Playboy magazine was issued, which featured a nude photo layout of actress Dayle Haddon. That exposure effectively ended her acting career at Disney. She took off for Europe and landed a string of steamy roles, the best known being in Just Jaeckin's THE FRENCH WOMAN (1977). She worked primarily in Europe in the 1970s, cropping up occasionally in small roles in American movies such as NORTH DALLAS FORTY. Since the mid-1990s she has worked in the cosmetics industry.

THE WORLD’S GREATEST ATHLETE was released on tape in 1997 and DVD in 2005. It has appeared on both the Disney Channel and Turner Classic Movies, and can also be rented or purchased as a download.

 Posted:   Jun 11, 2012 - 5:32 AM   
 By:   vinylscrubber   (Member)

Boy, THAT'S a Marvin Hamlisch effort you're not going to see in one of his pops concerts too soon.

 Posted:   Jun 11, 2012 - 6:45 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

A little break from Disney, THE TODD KILLINGS-71-Richard Thomas, Gloria Grahame, Edward Asner, Meg Foster-[What a cast] interesting MR Thomas being in films like this and Last Summer[sordid ending] before becoming famous as the loveable John Boy on the Waltons-This film after it's few weeks theatrical release throughout America vanished from the media map, rare if ever on free TV, just as rare on cable, never could find it on Video? how about DVD? can't find it currently on YOU TUBE. ANY COMMENTS?

 Posted:   Jun 12, 2012 - 2:42 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

THE TODD KILLINGS was the final title of a film, which at various times in its development and production, was known as “Pied Piper of Tucson,” “The Pied Piper,” “Running Scared,” “Skipper,” “Skipper and Billy Roy,” and “What Are We Going to Do Without Skipper?” The film was based on the real-life murders committed by Charles E. "Smitty" Schmid, Jr. in Tucson, AZ. Schmid, a would-be musician, murdered one teenage girl in May 1964 and two others in August 1965. As depicted in the film, two of Schmid’s friends helped him bury his first victim, fifteen-year-old Alleen Rowe. The character “Billy Roy” was based on Richie Bruns, a friend of Schmid whose obsession with a local girl helped lead police to Schmid as the killer of Rowe and his next two victims, Gretchen Fritz and her younger sister Wendy. Embroiled in a turbulent romance with the sixteen-year-old Gretchen, Schmid killed her and Wendy out of fear that they would reveal his complicity in Rowe's death, which he had confessed to Gretchen.

In August 1966, Schmid was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for killing the Fritz sisters. His May 1967 trial for Rowe’s murder was terminated when he pled guilty to second-degree murder, even though the girl’s body had not been recovered. Schmid led police to her body in June 1967, but always maintained that he was innocent of the murders. His case became famous nationwide and was highly publicized due to his popularity with and influence over a large number of local teenagers.

THE TODD KILLINGS went through a lengthy development process. In June 1967, Daily Variety announced that National General Productions (NGP) would be producing a film about Schmid’s crimes, with the screenplay, to be written by Mann Rubin, based on “The Tucson Murders,” John Gilmore’s recently published true-crime exposé. Supposedly, the story acquisition included clearances from Schmid and Bruns, with Daily Variety stating that Bruns would “be associated with” the picture. No other contemporary sources confirm Bruns’s involvement in the project, however, or that the finished screenplay was based on Gilmore’s book.

A year later, in July 1968, Variety reported that NGP had “shelved” the project for over a year but was considering going ahead with it, despite the misgivings of Tucson community leaders who feared that the film would bring more notoriety to the area. The item stated that the film would now be based on Don Moser’s book “The Pied Piper of Tucson.” Moser, who had written a 1966 article about the killings for Life magazine, co-wrote the 1967 book with Jerry Cohen, but neither he nor Cohen is listed in the onscreen credits as contributing to the final picture. Instead, the basis for Dennis Murphy and Joel Oliansky’s screenplay is listed solely as a story by Rubin.

By early March 1970, British director Alastair Reid was scheduled to make his American feature-film debut with the project. By the end of March, however, Reid had left the production due to “differences of concept and approach” with NGP and had been replaced by Barry Shear. At that point, Abby Mann (1927--2008) was scheduled to write the screenplay and produce the film, but Mann too left the production after “a dispute” with NGP, and Shear also took over as the producer. After Mann’s departure, the script was rewritten and Mann received no mention in the final credits. Nevertheless, throughout its filming, THE TODD KILLINGS was listed on Hollywood Reporter production charts as an “Abby Mann production for National General.” Assuming that he did co-produce the film without credit, the picture would mark the only feature film produced by Mann, a noted screenwriter who had first established a successful career in television.

The casting also went through some changes. A January 1970 Variety article stated that Harriet Karr, Abby Mann’s wife, was “topcast” in the film with actor Richard Summers. Karr, a theatrical actress, would be making her motion picture debut in the film. But Karr does not appear in the final film, and Richard Summers was eventually replaced by Robert F. Lyons. The film marked the motion picture debuts of television actresses and real-life sisters Belinda and Tanis Montgomery, who played sisters “Roberta” and “Jackie.” The picture also marked the last film of longtime character actor Guy Wilkerson (1899—1971). Except for the title, all of the film’s credits appear at the end of the picture. In the end credits, the names of cast members Robert F. Lyons, Richard Thomas, Belinda Montgomery, Sherry Miles, Joyce Ames, Holly Near, James Broderick, Gloria Grahame, Fay Spain, Edward Asner and Michael Conrad appear before a repeat of the title.

Production on the film began in early May 1970. Although initially reported that the film would be shot in the Las Cruces area of New Mexico, exteriors were shot throughout the Sunland-Tujunga area of Los Angeles, the Upper Tujunga Canyon, and in Westwood, CA. The film’s interiors were shot at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios, with some interiors shot at the Lincoln Heights Jail in downtown Los Angeles. Production on the film continued through mid-July 1970. In early September 1970, the Writers Guild of America viewed a rough cut of the film and determined that it did not represent Abby Mann’s work as a screenwriter and that his name could be withdrawn from the credits, as he requested.

Barry Shear , a television director since the 1950s, had directed only one previous theatrical film, the successful American International youth picture WILD IN THE STREETS (1968). He would go on to direct only two more features, ACROSS 110TH STREET (1973) and THE DEADLY TRACKERS (1973), before returning to television for the remainder of his career until his death in 1979 at age 56. Several post-production news items reported that the film’s music had been composed by Billy Goldenberg, although only Leonard Rosenman is credited onscreen. Four songs were reportedly written by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, but they were not used for the final release.

THE TODD KILLINGS was released by National General Pictures in August 1971. It eventually reached New York in October, going directly into neighborhood theaters as half of a showcase double feature. The film was greeted by an equally divided group of critics. Speaking for those favorably impressed by the film, the Los Angeles Times’ Kevin Thomas called it a “sleeper” that was “one of the best of the so-called ‘youth pictures’” revealing “some ugly truths about youth in the more affluent strata of our society.” In agreement, New York’s Judith Crist saw THE TODD KILLINGS as “the first ‘youth’ film to permit an honest-to-god adult to note that the young alienated parasites have become the very things they profess to hate, ‘more bourgeois—and more pitiful’ than the elders they hate.”

Those who disliked the film, like the New York Daily News’ Ann Guarino felt is was merely “another tiresome contemporary drama about the youth scene.” In her one-star review, she objected to the “confused cross-editing” and reported that she was “annoyed with the main character because he seems such a put-on.” And Cue’s William Wolf felt that director “Shear doesn’t get much beyond banality” in “a very superficial picture.” Summing up both camps, William Paul of the Village Voice stated that “THE TODD KILLINGS is lurid, sordid, unappetizing, totally unredeeming and all those other adjectives that usually attach themselves to Hollywood’s exploitation melodramas. In other words, it’s worth seeing.”

THE TODD KILLINGS was the last film actually made by National General, which soon after ended active production, although it continued to buy and distribute motion pictures until 1974 when it ceased all activities. In 1978, the picture was re-released by another distributor as “A Dangerous Friend.” It made its network television debut on CBS in 1985. Warner Home Video released the film on tape (as THE TODD KILLINGS) in 1993 and as a made-on-demand DVD under the Warner Archive banner in 2010. Although the onscreen credits include a 1970 copyright statement for National General Productions, Inc., the film was not registered until 15 December 1998, when it was given the number RE-791-634.

After some initial scenes in the film, the following written statement appears onscreen: "The story you are about to see is a fictionalized dramatization of actual case histories. The names & certain characterizations & incidents have been changed to protect the innocent--and, in some cases, to protect the guilty." THE TODD KILLINGS would not be the last filmic word on the story of Charles Schmid. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?,” Joyce Carol Oates’s 1966 critically acclaimed short story, was inspired by Schmid’s crimes and Don Moser’s Life article, and was told from the point of view of one of his young victims. Her story became the basis of the 1986 film SMOOTH TALK, directed by Joyce Chopra and starring Treat Williams as the killer and Laura Dern as the girl he entraps. Another film based on Schmid’s life was the 1994 release DEAD BEAT, directed by Adam Dubov and starring Balthazar Getty as the Schmid character. The real Charles Schmid died in March 1975 after being attacked by two other inmates in the Arizona State Penitentiary.

 Posted:   Jun 12, 2012 - 4:23 AM   
 By:   Heath   (Member)

Superbeast (1972). I saw this Island Of Dr Moreau type flick as a kid. There's an autopsy scene involving some string-of-sausage viscera being removed from a corpse that very nearly had me fainting. I bailed out soon after. Never seen it since. Vanished. The Superbeast's a supercheap POS according to IMDB reviews... and they're very likely to be accurate about that. big grin

 Posted:   Jun 12, 2012 - 10:55 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

The working title of SUPERBEAST was “Evil Eye.” This U.S.-Philippines co-production was shot on location in Manila, from early March to early April 1972, for a reported $275,000. The picture was the first of two films shot back-to-back in Manila by A & S Productions, Inc., a company owned by veteran American producer Aubrey Schenck. The other film, DAUGHTERS OF SATAN, was shot immediately after SUPERBEAST and shared many of the same crew. Actor Vic Diaz appeared in both films, although in different roles. As shown by the poster above, both films were released together on a double bill.

Although Hollywood Reporter production charts list Allen Miner as the film's director, only George Schenck is credited in reviews, and the extent of Miner's work on SUPERBEAST is unknown. SUPERBEAST was the only feature ever directed by George Schenck, son of Aubrey Schenck. George has written a number of screenplays for both feature films and television programs, as well as producing many episodes of various television series. George Schenck also wrote and produced SUPERBEAST. The film was scored by Richard La Salle.

When SUPERBEAST was released by United Artists in October 1972, reviewers pointed out the similarity of some of the film's plot points to the novel “The Island of Dr. Moreau” (which was first made into the 1932 Paramount production ISLAND OF LOST SOULS) as well as the 1932 RKO production THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (based on the short story of the same name). The few critics who saw the film found that it did not match these earlier films.

Variety found that “a confused opening and later a blurry storyline militates against full acceptance.” The New York Times said that the film had “more yawns than goose bumps.” Cue thought SUPERBEAST to be “nicely photographed, but badly acted and directed.” (“The jungle looks interesting; nothing else does.”) And Bob Lardine of the New York Daily News declared that “SUPERBEAST isn’t super, but it is certainly beastly. . . . The picture carries an R rating for no other reason perhaps than the scene in which a cadaver is sliced open. It takes a strong stomach to stand the episode—and a stronger one to sit through the entire picture.”

SUPERBEAST has never been issued on home video, and the American Film Institute could not locate a print of it for the AFI’s cataloging project. Reportedly, however, tapes of the film are available from some “gray market” retailers under the title “Primal Instincts.” Epix now has SUPERBEAST available for streaming, and the download can be rented at VUDU.

 Posted:   Jun 12, 2012 - 11:32 AM   
 By:   John McMasters   (Member)

Four films I'd love to get my hands on:

ROAD TO SALINA -- Robert Walker, Jr., Mimsy Farmer and Rita Hayworth

A REFLECTION OF FEAR -- Robert Shaw, Sally Kellerman, Sondra Locke

KENNY AND COMPANY -- Dan McCann, A. Michael Baldwin, Jeff Roth, Ralph Richmond, Reggie Bannister

THE HAUNTING OF M -- Jo Scott Matthews, Nini Pitt, Isolde Cazelet (I believe I've mentioned this spooky gem before -- at least I think it is a gem -- it's been years and years since I saw it)

 Posted:   Jun 13, 2012 - 4:58 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

films I'd love to get my hands on:

ROAD TO SALINA -- Robert Walker, Jr., Mimsy Farmer and Rita Hayworth

ROAD TO SALINA was a 1969 French-Italian co-production of Corona Films/Transinter Films (Paris) and Fono Roma Films (Rome). The plot concerned a wanderer who returns to his mother’s diner and has an affair with a woman, who may be his sister. The film starred Mimsy Farmer, Robert Walker, Ed Begley, and Rita Hayworth, in one of the last of her 65 films. ROAD TO SALINA was Ed Begley’s last film. The 69-year-old actor died of a heart attack while attending a Hollywood party on April 30, 1970. He was perhaps best remembered in pictures for his portrayal of the redneck political boss in the filmization of Tennessee Williams’ SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH, a performance which won him a 1962 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

ROAD TO SALINA was directed by Georges Lautner, a French director of nearly 50 features, who was the son of French actress Renee Saint-Cyr. Lautner also co-wrote the screenplay, from a novel by Maurice Cury. The picture was filmed, primarily in English, on location at Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.

The film opened in Italy in November 1970, whereupon Avco Embassy picked it up for U.S. distribution. But when it opened in America on 17 February 1971, the critics saw little reason to take the ROAD TO SALINA. Cue’s William Wolf found the film to be “a tall story, as unbelievable as it is uninteresting.” Vincent Canby of the New York Times was put off by the “completely flat” narrative, and found himself “disoriented” by the film’s international makeup: “An English-language mystery melodrama, made by Frenchmen, played by Americans, set in Mexico, and shot off the West Coast of Africa in the Canary Islands.” And the Village Voice’s Robert Colaciello was similarly disoriented in time: “If your taste runs to ‘70s actors having ‘60s sex in a ‘50s film so that a ‘40s star can suffer, then ROAD TO SALINA is for you.”

Only Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times seemed to find some good in the film. He felt that the story “unfolds with suspenseful credibility under the taut control of writer-director Georges Lautner. . . . Subtle, delicate even, ROAD TO SALINA is a credit to Lautner and his impeccably cast stars.” But the overwhelming majority of critics sided with the New York Daily News’s Kathleen Carroll that ROAD TO SALINA was “a sticky, grade-B melodrama” that “deserves to be forgotten.”

Apparently, the film has been forgotten. It received limited distribution in the U.S., usually playing on the lower half of double bills. It was released on tape by Charter Entertainment / Nelson Entertainment in 1987, but has not been available since.

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