Michele Legrand, the French composer who won three Academy Awards, has died at age 86. Legrand originally hit the big time as a crooner and pianist with his 1954 album "I Love Paris" which went on to be an international sensation, selling more than 8 million copies. Other hit albums followed and he began to score feature films. With more than 200 films to his credit, Legrand's style of scoring films would is considered "old school" today, employing lush, romantic melodies that have included some of the most memorable film scores of all time. He first gained international attention in film scoring with the 1964 French production "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg", a romance in which literally every word of dialogue was sung. The film earned him three Oscar nominations and the best known song from the film, "I Will Wait for You" became a major hit that was covered by many artists. He would also create the score for the related 1967 film "The Young Girls of Rochefort".
The following year, Legrand won an Oscar for Best Song for "The Windmills of Your Mind", a puzzling but hypnotic piece with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn that perfectly fit the stylish crime caper "The Thomas Crown Affair". Noel Harrison sung the piece in the film but it was covered by many artists and Dusty Springfield had a Top 40 version of it. Other Oscars followed for his haunting score for "Summer of '42" and "Yentl". For more about his life and career click here.
you’re one of the many moviegoers who are unfamiliar with the Jacques Lacerte
thriller Love Me Deadly, you’re not
alone. A product of early 1970s low-budget motion picture production, this film
is the sole title directed by Mr. Lacerte who passed away in 1988. Lensed in
1971 and released in San Francisco right around the same time as Gerard
Damiano’s wildly popular and controversial couples-flick Deep Throat in June 1972 just before the Watergate burglary, the
film played in roughly ten markets, including rained-out drive-ins, before it nearly
disappeared from view. However, there are subsequent movie posters for the film
that have the audacity to mention William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) and give the impression that spiritual
possession is somehow to blame for the unsavory goings-on. It’s not.
Love Me Deadly was originally titled Kiss Me Deadly, however Mickey Spillane had
the rights to that title, hence the name change. What is billed as a story of
demonic diabolical deeds is rather a heartbreakingly tragic tale of a young
woman who cannot seem to connect with men…who are alive. The film never really
seems to get a grip on how it wants to play out the subject matter at hand but
you get the feeling that the director is attempting to pass the film off as
some sort of dissertation on necrophilia which, in my humble opinion, is one of
the most incomprehensible, disgusting, and desperate of all sexual proclivities
and one that I can only hope is
relegated to the cinema. I interpreted the film from a much different
perspective, so each viewer might see something differently due to the film’s
inability to construct a single tone.
opening credits play over images of a happy young girl, Lindsay Finch, playing
with her father who dotes on her, pushes her on a swing, and comforts her when
she falls. As an adult, Lindsay (Mary Charlotte Wilcox) is a looker who tries
her best to make friends with attractive men. She leads on Wade Farrow (the
late Christopher Stone of 1981’s The
Howling and 1983’s Cujo, sans his
trademark ‘stache) only to rebuff him when he makes sexual advances. Like Harold
and his pal Maude, Lindsay looks through the newspapers and attends afternoon
wakes of complete strangers although her reasons for doing so are far more
disturbing: she attempts amorous contact with the recently deceased. While
about town, she hones in on men who bear a resemblance to her father whom we
can safely assume has passed. Meanwhile Fred (Timothy Scott), a funeral
director of Morningside Mortuary (the name anticipates 1979’s Phantasm), catches her and persuades her
to join him after hours in necrophilic activities with similarly afflicted
gonzos who don black mass-like capes in a ritual prior to becoming intimate
with corpses, the victims of Fred’s nocturnal cruisings along the Sunset Strip
in search of johns and prostitutes.
takes a liking to Alex Martin (Lyle Waggoner) whom she sees as a father figure.
They court and marry soon afterwards, although their bedroom habits suffer
greatly as she’s unable to allow Alex to make love to her. He’s patient and
even sleeps in another room yet becomes suspicious of his wife’s behavior when
he follows her to the funeral parlor and sees her enter the premises. When he
asks her about it later on, she denies going there at all. A brief conversation
with the housekeeper who practically raised her leads Alex to the cemetery in
the film’s most heartbreaking scene wherein Lindsay is dressed in pigtails,
playing around her father’s grave like a child. Anyone who has seen enough
horror films knows how the film will end so while it’s not a shocker, it’s actually
tragically sad given how her father died and the guilt that Lindsay feels. This
is the biggest issue that I have with the film. While the ads promise one
thing, what you get is something much different. The biggest evidence of this
is in the inclusion of elegiac songs sung by Kit Fuller that play over the kinderscene that opens the film and the romantic
silliness between she and Alex. This is, a sequence that seems to have been borrowed
from the overlong romantic interlude that plagues Clint Eastwood’s otherwise
crackerjack Play Misty for Me (1971),
with Roberta Flack crooning on that film’s soundtrack for nearly five minutes. The
original movie poster even claims that Lindsay is 18, however she’s clearly in
her early to mid-twenties.
"The Man from U.N.C.L.E." was not only a TV phenomenon in the 1960s but the mania also extended to the big screen. MGM produced eight feature-length movies derived from two-part episodes of the series. (Some included extra "bonus" footage that would deemed to be too sexual or violent for network broadcast.) These lazily-compiled efforts were astonishingly profitable, especially in England where some house records were set at theaters. (Only three of the feature films were released theatrically in the USA: "To Trap a Spy", "The Spy with My Face" and "One Spy Too Many". "One of Our Spies is Missing" was planned for American release but we've yet to substantiate that it actually was.) This trailer is suitably hokey, mod, cheesy and fun as we once again watch Robert Vaughn and David McCallum save the world from the threat of Thrush!
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"The Secret Partner" is yet another unheralded gem from the cinematic past that has been made available through the Warner Archive. It's a fairly low budget British film noir that nevertheless is completing engrossing and will have viewers guessing throughout. Stewart Granger is John Brent, a successful executive at a London shipping company who we find in great distress from early in the film. It seems Brent is being routinely blackmailed by his milquetoast dentist, Beldon (Norman Bird). We don't know what he has on Brent until much later in the story, a clever device used by screenwriters David Pursall and Jack Seddon that only increases the interest of the viewer. Brent understandably despises Beldon but is intimidated enough by him that he continues to pay astronomical sums of money to buy his silence. In the interim, Brent can't explain to his wife Nicole (Haya Haraeet) why their money is disappearing almost as fast as he can earn it. She logically suspects that he is seeing another woman and their marriage very publicly goes on the rocks when she moves out. Meanwhile, Beldon himself is subject to the terrors of blackmail when a masked man with a gun demands that he follows explicit instructions to administer a drug to Brent during his next dental visit. While under the influence of sleeping gas, Brent is injected with a truth serum that results in his telling Beldon the combination of his company's safe. Additionally, Beldon follows instructions to remove Brent's office keys and make a clay impression of them. The masked man promises Beldon a payoff of 15,000 pounds if he complies- and death if he doesn't. Beldon pulls off his end of the scheme and Brent appears to be none the wiser. Predictably, the office safe of Brent's employer is rob of 130,000 quid and he is the logical suspect. The case falls into the lap of Det. Superintendent Frank Hanbury (Bernard Lee), a veteran cop who is counting the days until his imminent retirement. He questions Brent but when Brent realizes he is about to be arrested for grand larceny, he flees. Hanbury relentlessly pursues him even as his investigation leads him to believe that Brent might have been set up as a fall guy. Hanbury repeatedly interviews Nicole and discovers that she is apparently having affairs with some of Brent's most trusted friends and co-workers. Meanwhile, Brent is trying to avoid the police while he conducts his own investigation, desperate to prove he is innocent.
"The Secret Partner" is a prime example of the kind of efficient, low-profile films that used to be turned out regularly decades ago and this one is top notch throughout. It's impressively directed by the ever-capable Basil Dearden, who helmed other gems like "Woman of Straw" and "Khartoum". Granger, who should have been a much bigger star, is dashing and determined as a leading man and he plays well off of the great British character actor Bernard Lee. Lee's slow, unemotional approach to solving the case is a joy to watch, as he patiently absorbs the facts and tries not to jump to conclusions even as he smokes what must be a record number of cigarettes ever consumed by one actor in one film. The film is peppered with fine performances from an impressive supporting cast with Harareet especially enticing as Brent's sexy, estranged wife. Even the smallest roles are well-performed (keep an eye out for Paul Stassino, the ill-fated NATO pilot from "Thunderball" as a pimp!). There is also a funky if somewhat bombastic jazz score by Philip Green and some nice period photography around London. The real pay off is a surprise revelation near the end of the film that I doubt even the most astute viewer will see coming.
"The Secret Partner" is a thoroughly enjoyable film that represents the cliche "They don't make 'em like that any more!"
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A long time ago in our own galaxy, independent movie theaters prided themselves on creating unique promotional stunts, as evidenced from these photos from a March 1968 issue of Boxoffice magazine. In the parlance of the era, theater owners were "taking it to the streets" in order to drum up awareness of their latest showings. Sometimes models were employed and on other occasions, hapless theater employees were subjected to participating in rather bizarre and comical publicity stunts. These two photos show a model on the streets passing out leaflets to seemingly unimpressed passersby for the Joan Crawford thriller "Berserk!" and a mannequin dressed as Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name for "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." Those were the days!