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Friday, July 19, 2019

Retro Review: TUFF TURF (1985)


TUFF TURF 
(US - 1985)

Directed by Fritz Kiersch. Written by Jette Rinck. Cast: James Spader, Kim Richards, Paul Mones, Matt Clark, Claudette Nevins, Olivia Barash, Robert Downey Jr., Panchito Gomez, Michael Wyle, Catya Sassoon, Frank McCarthy, Art Evans, Herb Mitchell, Bill Beyers, Lou Fant, Jim Carroll, Jack Mack and the Heart Attack. (R, 112 mins)

For a hot minute from 1986 to 1987 at the tail end of the original Brat Pack era, James Spader established himself as the next William Zabka, whose performances in THE KARATE KID, JUST ONE OF THE GUYS, and BACK TO SCHOOL were instrumental in establishing the template for every smug, bullying '80s teen movie douchebag who came down the pike. Spader's supporting turns in PRETTY IN PINK and LESS THAN ZERO carried on the Zabka tradition but with a more cerebral bent. Where Zabka mastered the portrayal of the asshole jock bully, Spader's prickiness possessed an intelligence and a jaded, erudite malevolence that bordered on sociopathy. Spader ran with that a few years later in Steven Soderbergh's 1989 landmark indie SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE and again in David Cronenberg's controversial 1997 film CRASH. Essentially a career journeyman with an occasional STARGATE blockbuster to his credit, Spader is known more these days for his TV work, which began in 2003 with a stint on THE PRACTICE that was spun off into BOSTON LEGAL, teaming him with William Shatner. Like Shatner, Spader is completely aware of his eccentric "James Spader" persona and is in on the joke, whether it was his brief turn as fill-in Dunder-Mifflin branch manager Robert California on THE OFFICE or in his most steady "James Spader" role yet, the sardonic ex-black ops agent Raymond "Red" Reddington on THE BLACKLIST, soon to be in its seventh season on NBC.






Before making his mark with PRETTY IN PINK, and with a couple of minor supporting roles and some TV credits under his belt, 24-year-old Spader's first starring gig in a feature film came with TUFF TURF. Released in January 1985 and just out on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber (because physical media is dead), it's ostensibly part of the low-budget high school gang movie craze of the period, like 1982's CLASS OF 1984, 1983's YOUNG WARRIORS, 1984's SAVAGE STREETS, and 1986's 3:15 and DANGEROUSLY CLOSE to name a few. But it quickly stakes its claim as the weirdest of the bunch, with Spader's character introduced shouting "Be Bop a Lula!" as he rides his ten-speed through a mugging, and defuses the situation in an impromptu fashion by shaking a can of soda and spraying it at some punks rolling a guy at a Reseda bus stop. Five minutes into TUFF TURF, and it's already difficult to tell if it's a serious movie and even after watching it, the question remains. Spader is Morgan Hiller, a Connecticut country club preppy who recently relocated to a blue collar area of L.A. after his dad (veteran character actor Matt Clark) lost everything back east when his business collapsed. With his dad driving a cab while studying for the California real estate exam and his mom (Claudette Nevins) riding his ass because he lacks the ambition of his successful toolbag of an older brother Brian (Bill Beyers), the last thing Morgan needs is trouble, but he gets it the next morning on the first day of school, when the punks from the mugging, led by Nick (29-year-old Paul Mones) and his girlfriend Franky (former child actress, '70s Disney star, Paris Hilton aunt, and future REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS reality TV personality Kim Richards), recognize him and see he's the new kid. Morgan keeps tangling with Nick and his goons, who destroy his bike and leave a dead rat in his locker, but he finds a buddy in smartass goofball Jimmy (a pre-fame Robert Downey Jr.) and gradually woos Franky from the vicious clutches of the possessive Nick, which only makes things worse.



It also leads to unexpected comedy, with a seemingly improvised set piece where Morgan and Jimmy take Franky and her friend Ronnie (Olivia Barash) for a joyride in Nick's car and crash a posh Beverly Hills country club. It only gets more strange when Morgan commandeers a piano and sings a maudlin ballad to Franky. There's also a brief appearance by punk icon, poet, and BASKETBALL DIARIES subject Jim Carroll as himself (in the world of TUFF TURF, Downey's Jimmy plays drums in Carroll's band), long scenes of people driving around or one of Franky putting on makeup and trying on outfits for a date with Morgan, and numerous instances of shots where it seems like someone should've said "Cut" before they did. Seriously overlong at 112 minutes, TUFF TURF feels like the cut before the final cut, and likely would've been more consistent and effective at 85 or 90 minutes, without all those static, lingering shots, or the incongruous broad comedy.






The film was directed by Fritz Kiersch, who had a decent-sized hit the previous year with the Stephen King adaptation CHILDREN OF THE CORN. But it's hard telling what to make of the vaguely REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE-inspired script by one Jette Rinck (an obvious pseudonym further signifying the film's serious James Dean worship; "Jett Rink" is the name of Dean's character in GIANT), which seems like it was the result of two writers--one with a violent gang thriller and the other with a goofy teen comedy--clumsily crashing into each other on the studio lot like they're in an old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercial, yelling "Hey, you got your comedy in my thriller!" and "No, you got your thriller in my comedy!" and cobbling the random, scattered pages of the scripts into one. TUFF TURF is a hot mess, the kind of movie where tragedy strikes when an enraged Nick shoots Morgan's dad, sending him into a coma, but it can still end with a fun closing credits sequence where Spader and Downey head to a show and hop onstage to play air sax and mug shamelessly with L.A. regional legends Jack Mack and the Heart Attack. There's also a showdown in an abandoned, ramshackle warehouse and a terrible score by noted record producer Jonathan Elias, who's also credited with "synthesizer realization," arguably the most 1985 movie credit ever. And TUFF TURF's D.P. is renowned Belgian cinematographer Willy Kurant, whose credits include Jean-Luc Godard's MASCULIN FEMININ (1966), Alain Robbe-Grillet's TRANS-EUROP-EXPRESS (1966), Orson Welles' THE IMMORTAL STORY (1968) and, uh, Louis C.K.'s POOTIE TANG (2001). See what I mean? Everything about TUFF TURF is just weird.


TUFF TURF opening in Toledo, OH on 3/1/1985

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Retro Review: THE ANNIHILATORS (1985)


THE ANNIHILATORS
(US - 1985)

Directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr. Written by Brian Russell. Cast: Gerrit Graham, Lawrence Hilton- Jacobs, Paul Koslo, Christopher Stone, Andy Wood, Jim Antonio, Sid Conrad, Dennis Redfield, Bruce Evers, Millie Fisher, Becky Harris,Mimi Honce, Bruce Taylor. (R, 85 mins)

After making a fortune with his Utah-based indie Sunn Classic Pictures and creating the hit TV show THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GRIZZLY ADAMS, Charles E. Sellier Jr. had other ambitions and gradually began to wean the company off speculative re-enactments like 1977's THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY, Brad Crandall-narrated UFO and Noah's Ark "documentaries," and more faith-based fare like 1980's IN SEARCH OF HISTORIC JESUS. There was money to be made with titles like the 1980 sci-fi conspiracy thriller HANGAR 18, the 1981 horror film THE BOOGENS, and the 1983 Stephen King adaptation CUJO, the latter finding distribution with Warner Bros. Sunn Classic would be sold to Taft Enterprises in 1980, and Sellier would move into the profitable realm of drive-in exploitation with the 1984 teen comedy SNOWBALLING and the same year's SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT. The latter would prove to be a step too far--not just for Sellier's Sunn Classic faithful but for pretty much everyone--with the killer Santa slasher movie igniting a firestorm of controversy and widespread condemnation, with Siskel and Ebert calling him out by name and calling the profits from the film "blood money." Sellier continued to follow B-movie trends outside the auspices of Sunn Classic with the 1985 New World Pictures release THE ANNIHILATORS, an instantly-forgotten Namsploitation/vigilante mash-up shot in Atlanta and just out on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber, because physical media is dead. The concept was nothing new--TAXI DRIVER, ROLLING THUNDER, THE EXTERMINATOR, and FIRST BLOOD all dealt with Vietnam vets unable to function in civilian life when they came home before the subgenre went into full "the war's not over till the last man comes home!" mode--but THE ANNIHILATORS takes a more SEVEN SAMURAI-esque approach, albeit with a budget that forced them to whittle it down to four.






Paralyzed from the waist down after being shot saving his buddies in 'Nam, Joe Nace (Dennis Redfield) now owns a small grocery store in the fictional South Point neighborhood in Atlanta (the film was shot in the city's Cabbagetown district, and the market is played by Little's Food Store). The area is overrun with gang activity, with the chief menace being Roy Boy Jagger (Paul Koslo) and his "Rollers." Where most movie gangs are fearsome youths terrifying their elders, Roy Boy and his Rollers all look to be grown-ass men in their 30s and 40s, terrorizing a bunch of people in roughly the same age bracket by shaking them down for protection money and loan sharking. Joe mouths off to Roy Boy one too many times and gets his head bashed in with a meat tenderizer (Joe has one for sale in his store, just randomly hanging on a rack with numerous other unrelated items) while his lone customer--a well-dressed woman who can't possibly live in the area--is stripped naked, fondled, and gutted with a switchblade. Joe's dad Louie (Sid Conrad) decides he's had enough of Roy Boy's reign of middle-aged terror and summons Joe's old Nam buddy Bill "Sarge" Ecker (Christopher Stone) to teach the area residents to fight and help them stand up to the Rollers. Ecker tracks down the rest of their Nam crew--accountant and comic relief Ray (Gerrit Graham), family man Garrett (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, aka WELCOME BACK, KOTTER's Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington), and hopeless drunk Woody (Lou Reed lookalike Andy Wood)--to come to South Point and take out the trash.




Christopher Stone (1942-1995)
With a bigger budget and a better director, THE ANNIHILATORS could've been an acceptably entertaining garbage action movie. But it's so inept and cheaply-made that it's really surprising New World actually rolled it out across the country (regionally; it opened in the summer of 1985 but didn't hit my hometown of Toledo, OH until January 1986). The cops--led by Lt. Hawkins (Jim Antonio)--are no help and rank among cinema's most pathetically useless. The training montage lasts all of two minutes before all of the residents are taking charge and kung-fu fighting. And in his own way, Koslo's mulleted Roy Boy is as cartoonish as Gavan O'Herlihy's Fraker in the somewhat similar DEATH WISH 3, which would be out later in the year. But despite the occasional amusement, THE ANNIHILATORS is never as entertaining--even in a bad way--as you want it to be. The title crew is likable enough (except for annoying sad sack Woody), and while he was never a star, Graham (USED CARS) seemed to be doing OK enough with comedic supporting roles in higher-profile projects (THE RATINGS GAME, THE MAN WITH ONE RED SHOE) that a gig like this seems a bit beneath him. If THE ANNIHILATORS deserves credit for anything, it's giving a tough-guy lead to Stone, a TV vet best known for co-starring with his wife Dee Wallace in THE HOWLING and CUJO (they were married from 1980 until his death from a heart attack at just 53 in 1995). Though he stayed busy until the end, Stone never really broke out and became the second-string Tom Selleck that he could've been, so even though it's pretty terrible, THE ANNIHILATORS does get somewhat of a boost from his presence. It would be the last film Sellier directed before his death in 2011 at 67. Following THE ANNIHILATORS, he switched to producing TV-movies and later replicated the Sunn Classic ethos for the post-2000 DTV era with various DA VINCI CODE and SECRET-inspired "documentaries," as well as pandering, faithsploitation drivel like END TIMES: HOW CLOSE ARE WE? and GEORGE W. BUSH: FAITH IN THE WHITE HOUSE.


THE ANNIHILATORS opening in Toledo, OH on 1/10/1986


Sunday, July 14, 2019

On Blu-ray/DVD: HIGH LIFE (2019) and THE PROFESSOR (2019)


HIGH LIFE
(France/Germany/UK/US/Poland - 2019)


HIGH LIFE, the latest film from French auteur Claire Denis (CHOCOLAT, TROUBLE EVERY DAY) is an arthouse/sci-fi journey to the end of the universe and the kind of mainstream audience-alienating pisser-offer that's become synonymous with distributor A24. But even they knew to keep this one at a limited level, topping out at 146 screens at its widest release. Not unlike SUNSHINE or INTERSTELLAR if directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, HIGH LIFE is certainly like nothing else you'll see in 2019, and it even switches between aspect ratios (1.66:1 most of the time, but also 1.33:1 and 1.85:1) for maximum cineaste cred. Denis doesn't make it easy: the pace is extremely slow, and it takes time to find your bearings, with the opening of the film actually being the middle of the story, with non-linear editing and cutaways to various points past and future eventually filling in the blanks like an early Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu film with a touch of the significant passage of time of Nicolas Roeg's THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH. The opening act is focused on Monte (Robert Pattinson), the lone remaining original member of the mission, and his infant daughter Willow, as something catastrophic has happened and Monte releases the bodies of several dead crew members into the forever nothingness of space. Denis cuts back and forth, revealing that a crew of death row convicts--among them Monte, Tcherny (Andre Benjamin), Boyse (Mia Goth), pilot Nansen (Agata Buzek), and Mink (Claire Tran)--who were assembled and given a chance to "serve science" on a journey to a black hole at the end of the universe in the hopes of harnessing a new energy source. It seems like a fool's mission, as one Earth-bound scientist (Victor Banerjee) even states that they won't even reach their destination in the lifetimes of those back home. But problems arise: captain Chandra (Lars Eidinger) suffers a stroke as a result of radiation poisoning and is put out of his misery by Dibs (Juliette Binoche), a deranged scientist who takes command of the mission and is obsessed with performing reproductive experiments and harvesting healthy fetuses, and isn't above sedating and raping a male subject to get the semen sample she needs.





In addition to the copious amounts of cum on display, nearly every bodily fluid and discharge puts in an appearance, including blood, piss, snot, breast milk, and menstrual blood. That's not to mention "The Fuck Box," a recreational masturbation chamber where the crew goes to let off some steam (and for Dibs to collect more specimens; seriously, there so much onscreen jizz in this that it probably qualifies for its own SAG card). Perhaps the most frequent Fuck Box flyer is Dibs herself, who rigs a contraption that gyrates in a mechanical bull-like motion as she rides a large silver dildo emerging from the center of it. Binoche leaves little to the imagination with her fearless performance here, and it's surprising that this managed to avoid an NC-17. HIGH LIFE isn't all about shock value, and the striking imagery of bodies floating in space, the sounds, and the overwhelming claustrophobia really stay with you even if the story proves frustratingly impenetrable at times. It feels like a more pervy Panos Cosmatos space movie at times, and another offbeat project for Pattinson, who also sings the closing credits song. Obviously, HIGH LIFE isn't for everybody (it would've been great to see this in a packed theater and count the walkouts), but it's a bold, original film that's an instant cult item and will no doubt take several viewings to unpack everything that's going on. (R, 113 mins)




THE PROFESSOR
(US - 2019)


With his financial issues and the back-and-forth allegations and protracted legal battles with ex-wife Amber Heard, it's hard to tell from day to day whether Johnny Depp has been officially cancelled, but Lionsgate seemed to err on the side of caution by dumping THE PROFESSOR on VOD nearly two years after it was shot. Blatantly transparent Oscar bait for Depp, the film casts him as Prof. Richard Brown, a tenured Lit lecturer at an upscale university who's just been given a stage four lung cancer diagnosis. Facing the option of having maybe a year with treatment and six months without, he opts to live his remaining months to the fullest. Encouraged by his wife Veronica's (Rosemarie DeWitt) extramarital affair with asshole university president Henry (Ron Livingston), Richard goes all in--drinking in class, asking students for weed, raw-dogging a waitress in the men's room of a campus bar, and even accepting an offer of a blowjob from an admiring male student (Devon Terrell). He only confides his terminal illness to his colleague and best friend Peter (Danny Huston), and is unable to break the news to either Veronica or their teenage daughter Olivia (Odessa Young). THE PROFESSOR was shot under the title RICHARD SAYS GOODBYE, which may give it some connection to writer/director Wayne Roberts' debut KATIE SAYS GOODBYE, which played the festival circuit in 2016 but wasn't commercially released until it went straight to VOD in June 2019, a month after THE PROFESSOR. It's always amusing watching characters give zero fucks with nothing to lose, but too much of THE PROFESSOR plays like a disease-of-the-week take on AMERICAN BEAUTY, whether it's Olivia forced to listen to the passively aggressive combative dinnertime conversation between Richard and Veronica, or Richard threatening to blackmail Henry if he doesn't grant him permission to take a sabbatical. Livingston is saddled with a completely unbelievable character, never more so than when he sees Richard smoking a joint while lecturing his class outdoors, and harumphs "Is...is that a marijuana cigarette?!" like he just wandered in from REEFER MADNESS. Depp has some good moments, but the drama becomes more forced and implausible as it goes on. It's nice to see perennial sneering prick Huston in a rare sympathetic role, and Zoey Deutch is charming as one of Richard's students, but THE PROFESSOR just feels too rote and too familiar and a couple of decades too late to be borrowing so much of AMERICAN BEAUTY. (R, 92 mins)




Friday, July 12, 2019

In Theaters: CRAWL (2019)


CRAWL 
(US - 2019)

Directed by Alexandre Aja. Written by Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen. Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Morfydd Clark, Ross Anderson, Anson Boon, Ami Metcalf, Jose Palma, George Somner. (R, 87 mins)

Or, GATORS IN A CRAWLSPACE, but that might be a little too SNAKES ON A PLANE-y. Mostly stupidly enjoyable if you shut your brain off completely, CRAWL is a disaster movie/nature run amok mash-up from director Alexandre Aja, one of the key figures in France's "extreme horror" movement from a decade and a half ago. After HIGH TENSION hit the US in 2005, Aja was courted by Hollywood and made the better-than-expected remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES, but beyond that, his output has ranged from "Meh" with MIRRORS and HORNS to "Are you for real with this shit?" with his inexplicably fanboy-approved remake of PIRANHA, the horror equivalent of a Friedberg/Seltzer spoof movie. After somewhat of a departure with 2016's little-seen THE 9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX, Aja returns to horror with the Sam Raimi-produced CRAWL, working from a script by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, the sibling team that penned 2011's THE WARD, John Carpenter's last film to date and among his least essential.






College student Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario of the MAZE RUNNER franchise) is on the University of Florida swim team (yes, the Florida Gators). She gets a frantic phone call from her Boston-based older sister Beth (Morfydd Clark), who can't get a hold of their father Dave (Barry Pepper), who's a couple hours south of Gainesville with a Category 5 hurricane bearing down on the state. Estranged from Dave after her parents' recent divorce, Haley makes the drive through treacherous storm and ignores a road block in an area where people are being forced to evacuate. She ends up at the family home but Dave is nowhere to be found until his barking mutt Sugar alerts Haley to his whereabouts: a quickly-flooding crawlspace under the house where he's bloodied and unconscious with a snapped leg. He comes to, tells her he was down there trying to cover the vents before the storm hit but had a run-in with an unexpected guest: a large alligator that's decided to call the crawlspace home and soon makes its presence known to Haley. She and Dave are able to hide behind a de facto fort of pipes that have been arranged in a way to maximize plot convenience, but before long, a second gator appears. And there's some hatched eggs, as it seems the Keller home, escrowed in the recent divorce, has an unexpected family of squatters brought in by the hurricane. Then some of their relatives start showing up.


CRAWL is a situation begging for Robert Forster but, like Cecile de France in HIGH TENSION, Scodelario displays a good amount of grit and toughness. This is the kind of film where a father and daughter decide to work out their issues as they're under siege by ferocious alligators. It's the kind of movie where Dave says "Be quiet!" only they both continue their loud conversation as Haley wades through the water to retrieve her phone. It's the kind of movie where Haley again tries to silently wade through the rising flood water but her foot hits a submerged cage, prompting an alligator reaction shot. It's the kind of post-QUIET PLACE horror movie that thinks alligators are blind and if you stand perfectly still, they won't know you're there. It's the kind of movie where Dave's leg is snapped and Haley's leg and arm have been chomped on, but they somehow manage to continue wading and swimming, walking it off like Werner Herzog being grazed by an insignificant bullet. CRAWL also amuses in that it's one of these movies shot in Eastern Europe--Belgrade, in this case--and Dave's house is in a cul-de-sac with a strangely-placed gas station right in the center of it, clearly the kind of "average Florida neighborhood" that could only exist in the imagination of an outsourced Serbian production design team. But there's really no use being snarky and nit-picky--CRAWL is what it is. The CGI gators look better then expected, there's a couple of good jump scares, and Scodelario (also terrific in the recent EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE) is a solid heroine you can get behind. Still...this really feels like a Netflix Original that's accidentally been released in theaters.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Retro Review: ROBOWAR (1988) and NIGHT KILLER (1990)


ROBOWAR
(Italy - 1988)

Directed by Vincent Dawn (Bruno Mattei). Written by Rossella Drudi. Cast: Reb Brown, Catherine Hickland, Alex McBride (Massimo Vanni), Romano Puppo, Clyde Anderson (Claudio Fragasso), Max Laurel, Jim Gaines, John P. Dulaney, Mel Davidson. (Unrated, 91 mins)

A year after unveiling the never-released-in-the-US SHOCKING DARK, a beyond blatant 1989 Italian ALIENS ripoff, Severin Films has taken another dive into the cinematic cesspool of Flora Film and producer Franco Gaudenzi with the Blu-ray releases (because physical media is dead) of 1988's ROBOWAR and 1990's NIGHT KILLER. Like SHOCKING DARK (shamelessly released in Italy as TERMINATOR 2), neither of these two Italian ripoffs ever made it into US theaters or video stores back in the day, though they've been available in inferior quality versions on the bootleg and torrent circuit for years. Reuniting the star (Reb Brown) and director (Bruno Mattei) of 1987's immortal RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II ripoff STRIKE COMMANDO, ROBOWAR doesn't even try to hide the fact that it's stealing entire set-ups, scenes, and plot points from the previous year's Schwarzenegger smash PREDATOR. Brown IS Major Murphy Black, the tough-as-nails leader of a mercenary unit called BAM ("It stands for Big Ass Motherfuckers"). He and his men have been commissioned by government stooge Mascher (Mel Davidson) for a mission to help take out some rebels who have gained control of island that's been wiped out by a cholera outbreak. The real mission, known only to Mascher: to find and eliminate Omega 1, a State Department-funded robot killing machine secretly "created by a team of bionic experts" and sent in to kill the rebels but now out of control and on a rampage. Black and his men--Guarini, aka "Diddy Bopper" (Massimo Vanni), Corey (Romano Puppo), Quang (Max Laurel), Peel, aka "Blood" (Jim Gaines), and pipe-smoking medic Papa Doc (John P. Dulaney), plus UN aid worker Virginia (Catherine Hickland), the sole survivor of a hospital massacre by the rebels--are stalked and offed one-by-one in PREDATOR fashion by the helmeted Omega 1, played by both Puppo and future TROLL 2 director and frequent Mattei writing partner Claudio Fragasso, who also stepped in to direct a few scenes when Mattei briefly fell ill on location in the Philippines.






Shot in the same sweltering Filipino jungle locations as most Gaudenzi productions of this period (STRIKE COMMANDO, ZOMBI 3), ROBOWAR wastes a lot of time on tedious stretches where everyone's just walking around and asking "Did you see that?" Brown gets to do his signature Reb Brown yells, but up to a point, it's rather restrained and too hesitant to commit to the all-out insanity of STRIKE COMMANDO or SHOCKING DARK. That is, until the last 15 minutes, when Mattei and screenwriter Rossella Drudi (the wife of Fragasso, who also made some uncredited contributions to the script) abruptly switch gears and turn it into an out-of-nowhere ROBOCOP ripoff with a revelation about the Omega 1. Only then does ROBOWAR reach the heights of madness usually associated with Mattei and Fragasso, capped off by gaffe-filled closing credits that list Brown playing "Marphy Black" and Hickland playing "Virgin," and misidentify Gaines and Vanni. The hapless Mattei can't even properly copy the PREDATOR heat vision shots thanks to Gaudenzi's cheap-ass budget, with the Omega 1 vision just a blurry pixellation, which begs the question "A high-tech, state-of-the-art US government funded robot killing machine and the best vision they can give it looks just like the scrambled porn you tried to watch when you were 12?" Until the last 15 minutes, ROBOWAR isn't as much fun as it should be, but more interesting for Eurotrash fans is the wealth of extras offered by Severin on the Blu-ray, including interviews with Fragasso, Drudi (two interviews with her), Hickland, Dulaney, Gaines, and Vanni, with at least two of those participants going into specifics about why everyone hated co-star Davidson, a Danish actor who lived and worked on B-movies in the Philippines. Both Dulaney and Gaines describe Davidson (who died in 2016) as a known pedophile, with Gaines mentioning him being caught in the act with a 12-year-old boy at one point during production, and members of the cast restraining Brown from beating the shit out of him (perhaps the Davidson issue is why Brown, who contributed to the YOR Blu-ray and is a convention regular, is MIA in these extras?)



ROBOWAR in no way inspired by PREDATOR



That's all interesting stuff, but the big treasure among the extras is a 15-minute compilation of on-set home movie footage, blurry but with clear audio, taken by Hickland during some downtime on the shoot. An American soap star married to David Hasselhoff at the time and serving her required stint in the Italian exploitation industry (she was also in WITCHERY with Hasselhoff, and Stelvio Massi's never officially released TAXI KILLER), Hickland managed to get some absolutely priceless footage of the cast and crew goofing off ("There he is, the maestro Bruno," as Mattei waves to the camera from his director's chair, or Brown yelling "Eat your heart out, David!" when she gathers her co-stars--"my guys"--for an impromptu cast introduction that, judging from Davidson being included in the fun, must've been before everyone found out about his off-set activities), specific dates of production (Brown is heard saying "Today is May 1, 1988"), and even a brief interaction ("This guy right here...") with Mario Bava and Antonio Margheriti regular Luciano Pigozzi, aka "Alan Collins," who's in the cast credits but nowhere to be found in the released film. Pigozzi is credited but unseen in several Filipino-shot Italian productions of this period (including ZOMBI 3), with IMDb adding a parenthetical "(Scenes deleted)" with each entry. It's unknown why Pigozzi was supposedly cut from so many films, or if he was credited for some kind of quota reason, but Hickland's footage proves he indeed was there on the set. Raise your hand if you ever thought you'd see behind-the-scenes footage from a Filipino-shot Reb Brown/Bruno Mattei joint.






NIGHT KILLER
(Italy - 1990)

Written and directed by Clyde Anderson (Claudio Fragasso). Cast: Peter Hooten, Tara Buckman, Richard Foster, Mel Davis, Lee Lively, Tova Sardot, Gaby Ford. (Unrated, 93 mins)

Shot in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, VA in December 1989, the obscure NIGHT KILLER was a film that Claudio Fragasso envisioned as a serious auteur statement, a psychological thriller that was also a riff on Ingmar Bergman's SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE. Italian schlock producer Franco Gaudenzi didn't like what he saw with Fragasso's initial cut, and while the director was off in Louisiana working on 1990's BEYOND DARKNESS for Joe D'Amato's Filmirage, Gaudenzi had Bruno Mattei shoot an interminable opening sequence and additional murder scenes in Italy, plus several insert shots that significantly cranked up the gore and splatter that was virtually non-existent in Fragasso's cut. This essentially brought an end to Fragasso and Mattei's working relationship, and to top it off, Gaudenzi, taking a page from the ZOMBI 2 and ALIEN 2: ON EARTH playbook, sold the film as TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3 for its Italian release (the real LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III, released in the US in January 1990, wouldn't hit Europe for another year). The retitling is in complete disregard for the film's Virginia Beach setting and the fact that the killer is clearly inspired by A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, wearing some rubbery hands with talon-like fingernails and what looks like a knockoff Freddy Krueger mask that Fragasso picked up at a Norfolk Rite-Aid.






After the Mattei-shot opening where an irate choreographer (Gaby Ford) loses her shit with her dancers and storms off only to be disemboweled and tossed off a balcony by the killer, the story shifts to Melanie Beck (Buckman), who's still reeling from the collapse of her marriage to an alcoholic, disgraced cop. She sends her young daughter Clarissa (Tova Sardot) to spend the day with family friends Sherman (Richard Foster) and his wife Annie (an uncredited actress who's terrible) and is soon terrorized by an obscene phone caller who turns out to be calling from inside the house (there's no stated reason for Melanie to have two phone lines, much less ones that dial to phones that are five feet apart). Unable to escape, she faces certain death until Fragasso makes a time jump to Melanie in the hospital, stricken with amnesia and unable to even recognize her own daughter. It seems that offscreen, Sherman returned to the Beck home in the middle of the killer's attack and suffered a facial laceration in the process of saving Melanie when the killer fled the scene. Still suffering from amnesia, Melanie is released from the hospital (?!) and is soon harassed by a creep in a Jeep named Axel (Hooten), who ends up saving her from a suicide attempt not out of the kindness of his heart, but because he wants to kill her his way.


The scenes with Axel psychologically preying on the weak, confused Melanie lead to some truly unhinged performances from Hooten and Buckman, the latter starting out the film hysterical and only ramping it up from there. Hooten appears to be visibly smirking in some shots, and it doesn't seem to be a character thing. The joys of NIGHT KILLER are endless, whether it's Melanie holding a gun on Axel and making him strip and flush his clothes down the toilet (!);  Hooten picking up some KFC and yelling "Friiiiied chicken and french friiiiiies!"; Fragasso subjecting Buckman to the most random "kamikaze disrobings" (© Leonard Maltin) this side of Kelly Lynch in Michael Cimino's DESPERATE HOURS; the absolutely atrocious performance of the woman playing Annie; the insane way Fragasso makes most of the film's logic lapses suddenly make perfect sense in a third act reveal complete with Virginia-based regional actor Lee Lively pulling a Simon Oakland as Melanie's shrink; or the cheaply-done gore inserts with the killer punching his rubber-gloved talons through the stomachs of his victims. Factoring out the post-production splatter, one can see Fragasso's intent as far as a Bergman-inspired thriller is concerned, no matter how misguided it may be. Perhaps more reasonable performances might've helped the credibility, but both Hooten and Buckman are so mannered and absurdly over-the-top that there's absolutely no way to take it seriously.





As evidenced by TROLL 2, Fragasso has a knack for setting up an Italian production in an American location and finding local actors who seem like pod people for whom English is, at best, a second language. While TROLL 2 had a cast of amateurs who've gone on to have a good sense of humor about the experience, NIGHT KILLER is anchored by a pair of professional American actors with a long list of credits, yet they still look like they've never been in front of a camera before. Buckman had a TV career going back to the late '70s, and co-starred with Claude Akins on THE MISADVENTURES OF SHERIFF LOBO but is perhaps best known for teaming with Adrienne Barbeau as the cleavage-baring Lamborghini duo in 1981's THE CANNONBALL RUN. By the late '80s, Buckman's career was tanking and she was starring in softcore Italian erotica for Joe D'Amato, like 1989's OBJECT OF DESIRE and 1990's HIGH FINANCE WOMAN. Hooten co-starred in 1977's ORCA and had the title role in the 1978 Marvel TV-movie DR. STRANGE, a pilot for a proposed CBS series that didn't get picked up. His career never really took off stateside but he found quite a bit of work in Italy, like Enzo G. Castellari's THE INGLOURIOUS BASTARDS (1978), Duccio Tessari's THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT (1978) and Joe D'Amato and George Eastman's post-nuke 2020: TEXAS GLADIATORS (1982). He acted sporadically from the mid '80s on and would walk away from the industry after NIGHT KILLER to devote himself to caring for his longtime partner, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Merrill, who would succumb to AIDS in 1995. Hooten virtually disappeared from public life, relocating to his native Florida, though he did emerge from retirement in 2013 for a pair of regionally-produced, no-budget horror movies, HOUSE OF BLOOD and SOULEATER. The latter film was directed by Michael Lang, who conducted a career-spanning interview with Hooten around that time and posted it on YouTube. Fragasso and his wife and uncredited co-writer Rossella Drudi are interviewed in the Blu-ray bonus features, both reiterating how displeased they were with the additional Mattei footage, plus Fragasso dishing on Hooten and Buckman's mutual dislike of one another, with Buckman allegedly complaining throughout the shoot about the openly gay Hooten's sexual orientation making him an unconvincing kisser and unsuitable to play a "macho" character.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Retro Review: FM (1978) and BETWEEN THE LINES (1977)


FM
(US - 1978)

Directed by John A. Alonzo. Written by Ezra Sacks. Cast: Michael Brandon, Eileen Brennan, Alex Karras, Cleavon Little, Martin Mull, Cassie Yates, Norman Lloyd, Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Buffett, Jay Fenichel, James Keach, Joe Smith, Tom Tarpey, Tom Petty, Janet Brandt, Mary Torrey, Terry Jastrow, Cissy Wellman, Robert Patten, Brenda Venus, REO Speedwagon. (PG, 104 mins)

Long erroneously credited with being the inspiration for WKRP IN CINCINNATI, which was in development at CBS at the same time, FM, released by Universal in the spring of 1978, is a killer soundtrack in search of a movie. The soundtrack, a time-capsule snapshot of 1978 rock radio with the title track written for the film by Steely Dan, ended up being a huge seller and was far more popular than the movie, which did only middling business. It's easy to see why: for a comedy, it's rarely laugh-out-loud funny, and the dramatic elements are managed in a heavy-handed way that leads to a contrived feelgood ending that comes off as phony and unearned. The cast is likable, though it might've helped to have someone more magnetic than Michael Brandon in the central role. Best known for his debut in 1970's acclaimed LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS and, if you're a horror fan, Dario Argento's 1971 giallo FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET, Brandon had a rare big-screen lead with FM at a time when he was pretty firmly entrenched as a TV actor or an occasional support (fourth-billed in 1980's A CHANGE OF SEASONS, for instance, after Shirley MacLaine, Anthony Hopkins, and Bo Derek). Just out on Blu-ray from Arrow (because physical media is dead), FM stars Brandon as Jeff Dugan, the program director and morning drive-time deejay at L.A.'s second highest-rated FM station Q-SKY. He manages a motley crew of characters, including Mother (Eileen Brennan), the aging veteran who's getting burned out with the weirdos who call in; Doc (Alex Karras), whose low ratings and country & western playlist in the pivotal afternoon slot ultimately cost him his job; Dugan's on-again/off-again girlfriend Laura (Cassie Yates), promoted from fill-in and weekends to replace Doc; the Prince of Darkness (Cleavon Little), who has the midnight-6am slot; and the mercurial Eric Swan (FERNWOOD 2 NIGHT star Martin Mull in his movie debut), the evening deejay who's hired an agent and is constantly looking to parlay his on-air popularity into something more, like hosting a game show, but is time and again his own worst enemy.







QSKY's corporate owners send in sales stooge Regis Lamar (Tom Tarpey) to drum up advertising, even calling on a friend in the Army to set up a deal where QSKY will play corny military recruitment jingles throughout the day. Of course, Dugan is vehemently against the idea, arguing that the station is already profitable and it has to be about more than dollars ("Wall-to-wall commercials!" Lamar beams, with Dugan sneering "Yeah, too bad we can't get rid of the music completely!"). Eventually, Dugan is canned after refusing to go along with corporate's directive, prompting Mother, Swan, and the rest of the staff to announce an on-air strike, barricading themselves in the building as fans riot outside to the tune of Queen's "We Will Rock You." Dugan is introduced speeding to work and avoiding the cops to the Eagles' "Life in the Fast Lane," and Swan has an on-air meltdown to Player's "Baby Come Back." Hardly a minute goes by without some now-classic rock staple putting in an appearance (here, check out the incredible tracklist; Anchor Bay released this on DVD many years ago and it's hard to believe they and now Arrow were able to clear all the music rights), and there's certainly an argument to made that FM's soundtrack is better than any K-Tel compilation of the day or as effective as any late '70s rock playlist you would create today (Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" is also in the movie, but isn't on the soundtrack album). You also get live concert footage of Jimmy Buffett and Linda Ronstadt, and, in a canny display of corporate synergy, MCA Records' rising star Tom Petty drops by the QSKY studio to plug his new single "Breakdown" and be interviewed on air by Dugan and Laura.





Much of the musical talent was corralled by executive producer/record exec/talent manager Irving Azoff, who ultimately had his name taken off the credits after a disagreement with Universal. The music is phenomenal and scenes like Dugan and Mother hosting an REO Speedwagon meet-and-greet at an L.A. Tower Records are priceless, but storywise, there just isn't much here. The lone feature directing effort by renowned cinematographer John A. Alonzo (CHINATOWN), FM is clearly the work of a D.P., with effective use of windows, glass, and reflections throughout, but is also saddled with a TV look at times, especially the climactic riot, which Alonzo is forced to stage in what looks like a cramped corner on a laughably unconvincing Universal backlot. The scant laughs usually come courtesy of Mull, whether he's getting blown by a fan in the deejay booth and unaware that he's on the air, or having one of his many diva moments where he goes silent with dead air, then comes to his senses by telling listeners that he just played the new single by Marcel Marceau. Both Brandon's Jeff Dugan and Gary Sandy's Andy Travis on WKRP IN CINCINNATI were based on famed KMET program director "Captain Mikey." But the difference between FM and WKRP is that FM errs in taking itself far too seriously, even if it gives Brennan some fine dramatic moments, like when she decides to quit, telling Dugan "I need more than five hours a night ego-tripping in this toy store." FM suffers from its inability to decide if it wants to be an insightful drama about the inner workings of a radio station or a wacky comedy about a zany crew of miscreants who play by their own rules. It ends up falling short at both ends, and all that's left is the music, which, in this instance, is enough to justify its cult status.



FM opening in Toledo, OH on 5/5/1978





BETWEEN THE LINES
(US - 1977)

Directed by Joan Micklin Silver. Written by Fred Barron. Cast: John Heard, Lindsay Crouse, Jeff Goldblum, Gwen Welles, Bruno Kirby, Stephen Collins, Jill Eikenberry, Lewis J. Stadlen, Michael J. Pollard, Jon Korkes, Lane Smith, Joe Morton, Richard Cox, Marilu Henner, Raymond J. Barry, Gary Springer, Susan Haskins, Charles Levin, Guy Boyd, Martina Deignan, Robert Costanzo, John H. Gartner, Douglas Kenney, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. (R, 101 mins)

Released a year before FM, BETWEEN THE LINES follows similar formula, has many funny moments with several irreverent smartasses among its character ensemble, but it's a more observational piece of a specific time and place, with counterculture disillusionment setting in and the realities of "adulting" (to use the parlance of our times) and a changing business structure taking hold. Like FM, BETWEEN THE LINES saw the corporate nature of the '80s coming before it did, but many of the characters in BETWEEN THE LINES weren't paying attention to Peter Fonda's despondent "We blew it," near the end of EASY RIDER. The alternative Boston newspaper The Back Bay Mainline is at a turning point. Once a beacon of the underground and the counterculture going back to the late '60s, it's now gone relatively mainstream, with publisher Stuart (Richard Cox) needing more ad revenue to keep the paper afloat and pay the staff. Editor Frank (Jon Korkes) doesn't want to sacrifice copy and keeps butting heads with dweeby, bow-tied advertising sales director Stanley (Lewis J. Stadlen), who insists they need to cut down copy and increase ads to stay profitable. Stanley's the kind of guy who's only too happy about the rumors swirling that Stuart is looking to sell the paper to Roy Walsh (Lane Smith), a powerful business mogul who's amassing a print media empire, a move that will instill a sense of across-the-board policies and likely push out the writing staff, anchored by mainstay Harry Lucas (John Heard), once a counterculture hero in Boston but now just jaded, cynical and barely showing up for work.






At one point, Frank tells Stanley "There's two kinds of writers here: they're either on their way up or on their way down." There's also Michael (Stephen Collins), who's shopping around for a book deal to leave the Mainline behind and go to NYC, though colleague and girlfriend Laura (Robert Altman vet Gwen Welles) wants to stay put; photographer Abbie (Lindsay Crouse), who has an on-again/off-again thing going with Harry and often proves better at his job than he is; ambitious David (Bruno Kirby), who still wears a tie to work; the eccentric "Hawker" (Michael J. Pollard, cast radically against type as "Michael J. Pollard"), a seemingly homeless man who sleeps in the office and sells copies of the paper on the street; Max (Jeff Goldblum), the wisecracking, popular music critic who keeps failing to convince Stuart and Frank that his loyal following warrants a raise from his current pay of $75 per week; and Lynn (Jill Eikenberry), the sweet receptionist who has to put up with all of them. They do what they do because the love the job or, in Harry's case, what the Mainline once was, even though it pays so little that most of them have second jobs, with Max scrounging for extra cash by selling promo copies of reviewed LPs to a used record store down the street.


Directed by Joan Micklin Silver, who found much acclaim with her 1975 debut HESTER STREET (which earned Carol Kane a Best Actress Oscar nomination) and would go on to direct 1988's CROSSING DELANCEY among several other films, BETWEEN THE LINES deftly captures the mood, the spirit, and the lingo of working at a small publication that's struggling to keep the lights on. That's not surprising, as screenwriter Fred Barron (who would go on to create the Lea Thompson sitcom CAROLINE IN THE CITY) spent time in the early '70s working at the Boston alternative weekly The Real Paper, the most obvious influence on the Mainline. Amidst its serious issues and its predictions of exactly how corporate America would take over the news business (also hammered home a year earlier in the scathing NETWORK), with Walsh ultimately buying the paper and saying he wants to keep things the way they are but reminding Frank on day one that "I run several newspapers...I can have a staff in here tomorrow," there's a lot of laughs. They come mostly from Goldblum, in one of the earliest presentations of his "Jeff Goldblum" persona," and future Character Actor Hall of Famer Raymond J. Barry, not a guy generally known for his comedy skills, steals the one scene he's in as a crazed "conceptual artist" with long hair and overalls, barging into the office, smashing Lynn's typewriter to the floor and declaring "I call that 'End of Communication.'" Critically acclaimed at the time, BETWEEN THE LINES, like HESTER STREET, was released independently through Midwest Films, a company founded by Micklin Silver and her husband Raphael Silver. It didn't get a lot of theatrical exposure, though it was rescued from obscurity with a recent Cohen Media restoration that had a limited run in NYC and L.A. before hitting Blu-ray (Collins, his career essentially over following 2014 revelations of past instances of sexual contact with minors going back to 1973, is noticeably left out of the credits on the Blu-ray packaging). It's a time capsule from an bygone era that's never coming back, and with a great ensemble of young actors about to go places (Marilu Henner has a small role as a stripper, a year before TAXI), plus live footage of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and a cameo by National Lampoon co-founder Douglas Kenney. It's oddly fitting that both it and FM have been resurrected on Blu-ray at exactly the same time.


Sunday, July 7, 2019

Retro Review: THE OUTSIDER (1983)


THE OUTSIDER
aka LE MARGINAL
(France - 1983)

Directed by Jacques Deray. Written by Jacques Deray and Jean Herman. Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Henry Silva, Carlos Sotto Mayor, Pierre Vernier, Maurice Barrier, Claude Brosset, Tcheky Karyo, Jacques Maury, Roger Dumas, Gabriel Gattand, Michel Robin, Jacques David, Jean-Louis Richard, Didier Sauvegrain, Stephane Ferrara (Unrated, 102 mins)

Though he's renowned by fans of world cinema for being one of the major faces of the French New Wave in films like 1960's BREATHLESS and 1965's PIERROT LE FOU for Jean-Luc Godard, and 1964's LEON MORIN, PRIEST for Jean-Pierre Melville, Jean-Paul Belmondo is equally well-known in France for his many action movies from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s. Belmondo never really made any attempts to crack the American market despite being courted by the Hollywood studios (the closest he came was a cameo in the 1967 James Bond spoof CASINO ROYALE, and he was enough of a known celebrity then that Than Wyenn played a spy named "Paul John Mondebello" on a 1967 episode of GET SMART), but his commercial action films certainly had a mainstream appeal that managed to get a couple of them distributed stateside (1975's THE NIGHT CALLER actually got an English-dubbed wide release in the US by Columbia). While Belmondo's action films made him a megastar at home and one of France's top box office draws, French critics who admired his early, "serious" work lamented his decision to focus on mainstream popcorn movies. Born in 1933, Belmondo's persona during this career phase was that of a man's man. He did his own often jaw-droppingly dangerous stunts, dated gorgeous actresses (he was romantically linked for several years to Ursula Andress in the '60s and then Laura Antonelli in the '70s), and as the '70s went on, he became the French equivalent of a Steve McQueen, a Burt Reynolds, or a Clint Eastwood. The 1983 cop thriller THE OUTSIDER (French title: LE MARGINAL) came late in the Belmondo action cycle and is rather typical of what French audiences expected when they went to see one of his movies.





At times, it almost feels like a French version of an Italian poliziotteschi, for several reasons: Belmondo repeatedly walking into a bar or a cafe or wherever and cracking skulls like serial bitch-slapper Maurizio Merli; some ridiculous action sequences with Belmondo risking life and limb; a catchy score by Ennio Morricone, some of which would be recycled and tweaked for Roman Polanski's 1988 Paris-set thriller FRANTIC; and the presence of American guest star and polizia fixture Henry Silva as the chief villain. Belmondo is hot-headed Commissioner Philippe Jordan, a cop who--you guessed it--plays by his own rules. He's been transferred from Paris to Marseille to help bust up an extensive drug trafficking operation that's bringing the product into France. After making a splash by commandeering a chopper and jumping from it onto a speedboat (yes, Belmondo does it for real, and it's pretty hair-raising) and destroying a heroin shipment intended for distribution by powerful Paris crime boss Sauveur Meccacci (Silva), Jordan apparently ruffles enough feathers with his actions that he's threatened with being framed for the murder of a Marseille cop unless he takes a demotion and goes back to Paris. Busted down to vice (is this LE MACHINE DE SHARKY?), Jordan pisses off his new boss and most of his new colleagues by persisting in his efforts to take down Meccacci, who's got enough corrupt cops, lawyers, and judges on his payroll and under his thumb that he's completely untouchable.





When he isn't making life miserable for Meccacci's flunkies, Jordan finds other situations where he can start some trouble, like going after a pair of Turkish pimps who beat up Livia Maria Dolores (22-year-old Brazilian pop star Carlos Sotto Mayor, the 50-year-old Belmondo's girlfriend at the time), a lovely young prostitute with whom he's gotten involved; searching for an ousted gay underling of Meccacci's in a leather bar straight out of CRUISING in a scene that would probably get Belmondo cancelled today; or raiding a shithole Rue de Lyon drug den to rescue the smack-addicted teenage daughter of a perp (Maurice Barrier) he sent to prison four years earlier. THE OUTSIDER opens with a terrific foot chase down and across a busy Marseille highway, with Belmondo hopping on and off semi trucks and dodging cars like a live-action version of Frogger, and there's also one terrific Remy Julienne car chase late in the film, where an enraged Jordan caps it off by slamming his Mustang into the other car, then backing up and plowing into it again several more times to make sure Meccacci's guys are dead and their bloodied bodies crushed beyond recognition, with onlookers standing there horrified at his brutality as he just exits his car and walks away. That's how Belmondo gets it done!





Directed and co-written by Jacques Deray (BORSALINO, THE OUTSIDE MAN), THE OUTSIDER was never shown theatrically or on home video in the US until Kino's new Blu-ray (because physical media is dead), release in conjunction with Georges Lautner's THE PROFESSIONAL, another Belmondo actioner from 1981 that's been more widely available in the States. A fandub version of THE OUTSIDER has been available on the bootleg and torrent circuit for years, but the Blu-ray is in French with English subtitles (Silva spoke English on set, but he's been dubbed by a French actor, and his voice wasn't on the bootleg dub, either). Belmondo made a few more action movies, along with the 1985 bank robbery comedy HOLD-UP, which was remade by Bill Murray as 1990's QUICK CHANGE, then decided to be "serious" again in the late '80s, first by returning to the stage and then starring in a 1990 take on CYRANO DE BERGERAC and Claude Lelouch's revisionist, WWII-set LES MISERABLES in 1995. He continued acting until he suffered a stroke in 2001 and went into unofficial retirement, though he made a one-off return to the screen with 2009's little-seen A MAN AND HIS DOG, a loose remake of Vittorio De Sica's 1952 neo-realist classic UMBERTO D. Though his retirement now appears to be permanent, the 86-year-old Belmondo is still a highly visible celebrity in France, where he and old friend Alain Delon were recently brought together for an interview and photo shoot with Paris Match, to the delight of fans who've followed the iconic screen legends for the last 60 years.


Belmondo and Alain Delon in a June 2019 issue of Paris Match