Released On This Day: How Hitchcock Marketed ‘Psycho’

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Released on this day back in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho broke new ground not only in the development of film’s narrative structure but also in how a film is marketed.

Hitchcock’s direction exceeded far beyond the editing room and into the movie theaters where Psycho was shown.  More specifically, each theater was given precise instructions on how to screen his film, from box office procedures to crowd control, changing the way moviegoers experienced their beloved pastime.

These innovations might have been shocking to theater patrons but they proved potent resulting in plenty of buzz and massive box office receipts.

Watch this awesome clip that explains his revolutionary process:

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How Friday the 13th accidentally perfected the slasher movie: The Week

933_5Being that the day is nearly over and I have put off doing my posts until the very end, I apologize for what would have been more timely, say…a couple of hours ago when it was actually Friday the 13th. That said, we can still celebrate the genre that keeps on giving, even if the majority of the new releases in the horror genre are a regurgitation of overused formulas or a vehicle to enforce archaic social mores to violently punish fornicating youths.

Scott Meslow in writing for The Week has delved into the thirty-four year history of the Friday the 13th franchise and reveals what he believes is behind the staying power of this megastar of the horror genre. “Even now — in an era where pretty much any successful movie is treated as a possible franchise — Friday the 13th rises far above the curve: 10 sequels, one reboot (with another on the way), one TV show (with another on the way), comic books, a video game, and countless trick-or-treaters with hockey masks and plastic machetes.

But before it became an absurdly prolific franchise, Friday the 13th was a cynical, one-off attempt to make a fast buck on a sleazy slasher movie that accidentally ended up spawning a decades-spanning, multimillion-dollar phenomenon.

“I had this movie title banging around in the back of my head that I thought would be terrific: Friday the 13th,” recalled Sean S. Cunningham in Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th. “I had no idea what the movie would be, but with that title I thought, at least, I’d be off to a good start.” On the advice of friend and collaborator Steve Miner, Cunningham pulled a classic huckster movie: wildly over-promising before there was any movie to deliver.

The duo bought a full-page ad in Variety proclaiming that Friday the 13th would be “the most terrifying film ever made” before they had a script to film, the money to make it, or even the rights to the title.

Meslow continues: “What’s most striking about Friday the 13th is how little regard anyone but its fans seem to have for it. It’s not just critics; in the years since its release, almost everyone involved in the production of Friday the 13th has found time to bash it. Screenwriter Victor Miller recalled the genesis of his involvement with the movie — a phone call with Sean Cunningham that began, “Halloween is making a lot of money at the box office. Why don’t we rip it off?”

Check out more on Friday the 13th here.

Rik Mayall, Star of ‘The Young Ones,’ Dead at 56: Variety

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Sad day.

Courtesy of Variety:

Rik Mayall, the beloved British comedian, writer and actor, has died at the age of 56, according to a statement from his management, Brunskill.

“We are deeply saddened to announce the death of Rik Mayall who passed away this morning,” Brunskill said in a statement acquired by the BBC. “We will be issuing a further statement in the fullness of time.”

Mayall was the co-creator and star of cult U.K. comedies “The Young Ones” and “Bottom,” which he appeared in alongside his comedy partner Adrian Edmondson. He also headlined British political satire “The New Statesman” and was a member of the comedy troupe The Comic Strip, with Edmondson and other notable British comedians such as Dawn French, Nigel Planer, Peter Richardson, Jennifer Saunders and Alexei Sayle.

Mayall and Edmondson’s double act, “The Dangerous Brothers” was featured on “Saturday Live,” the UK version of “Saturday Night Live,” which helped launch the careers of Ben Elton (with whom Mayall co-created “The Young Ones”), Harry Enfield, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.

Mayall was considered one of the pioneers of the alternative comedy movement in the U.K., best known for anarchic and energetic characters who were often prone to fits of slapstick violence, crude humor and hysterical outbursts. In addition to his starring roles, Mayall made memorable cameos in other cult British series such as “Blackadder” and “Jonathan Creek.”

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1981 A Kick Up the Eighties Kevin Turvey
1982 Whoops Apocalypse Biff Episode: “Autumn Cannibalism”
1982–1984 The Young Ones Rick 2 series
1983 The Black Adder Mad Gerald Episode: “The Black Seal”
1983–2012 The Comic Strip Presents… Various roles Several episodes and specials (appears in 19 of the 41 episodes)
1985 Happy Families Priest Episode: “Madeleine”
1986 George’s Marvellous Medicine 6 Jan 1986 TV episode
1986 Saturday Live Richard Dangerous Sketches featuring The Dangerous Brothers
1986 Blackadder II Lord Flashheart Episode: “Bells
1987 Filthy Rich & Catflap Gertrude “Richie” Rich 1 series
1987–1994 The New Statesman Alan Beresford B’Stard 4 series
1989 Blackadder Goes Forth Squadron leader Flashheart Episode: “Private Plane
1989–1991 Grim Tales The Storyteller 2 series
1991–95 Bottom Richard “Richie” Richard 3 series
1993 Rik Mayall Presents 6 episodes
1995 The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends Tom Thumb (voice) Episode: “The Tale of Two Bad Mice and Johnny Town-Mouse”
1995 How to Be a Little Sod Little Sod (voice)
1997 The Canterville Ghost Reverend Dampier TV film
1998 Jonathan Creek Detective Inspector Gideon Pryke Episode: “Black Canary” (Christmas Special)
1998-2003 Jellikins Narrator
1999 Watership Down Kehaar (voice) Series 1 and 2 (of 3) only
2001 Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes Lt. Daniel Blaney The White Knight Stratagem
2002 Believe Nothing Quadruple Professor Adonis Cnut 1 series
2004 Violent Nation Presenter All Episodes
2005 All About George George Kinsey 1 series
2004–2005 Shoebox Zoo Edwin the Eagle (voice) 2 series
2005–2006 King Arthur’s Disasters King Arthur (voice)
2006 SpongeBob SquarePants Lord Reginald 1 episode
2009 Agatha Christie’s Marple Alec Nicholson Episode: “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?”
2009 Midsomer Murders David Roper Episode: “The Creeper”
2012 Who Let The Dogs Out? Narrator Episode: All
2013 Hooligan’s Island Richard “Richie” Richard Episode: All.[42] Cancelled before production.[43]
2013 Jonathan Creek Detective Inspector Gideon Pryke Episode: “The Clue Of The Savant’s Thumb” (Easter Special)
2013 Man Down Dad
2013 Damo & Ivor Alistair

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1980 The Orchard End Murder Policeman
1981 Eye of the Needle Sailor
1981 An American Werewolf in London Man in Pub
1981 Shock Treatment “Rest Home” Ricky
1986 Whoops Apocalypse Specialist Catering Commander
1987 Eat the Rich Micky Feature film from The Comic Strip Presents…
1991 Drop Dead Fred Drop Dead Fred
1991 Little Noises Mathias
1991 The Princess and the Goblin Prince Froglip (voice) Dubbed voice for the 1992 English language version
1992 Carry On Columbus The Sultan
1995 The Snow Queen The Robber King (voice)
1995 The Wind in the Willows Mr.Toad (voice)
1997 Bring Me the Head of Mavis Davis Marty Starr
1999 Guest House Paradiso Richard Twat
1999 A Monkey’s Tale Gerard the Gormless (voice) Dubbed voice for the 2000 English language version
2000 Blackadder: Back & Forth Robin Hood Commissioned especially for showing in the Millennium Dome
2000 Jesus Christ Superstar (2000) King Herod
2001 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Peeves Cut from final edit of movie
2001 Kevin of the North (a.k.a. Chilly Dogs) Carter
2004 Churchill: The Hollywood Years Baxter
2005 Valiant Cufflingk (voice)
2012 Eldorado Chef Mario
2012 Errors of the Human Body Samuel Mead
2014 De ontsnapping (“The Escape”) Landlord

 

 

Video-Mark Gatiss on The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes: BFI (British Film Institute)

sherlockSherlock creator Mark Gatiss talks with Ian Haydn Smith in this British Film Institute’s: Screen Epiphanies exclusive event for BFI members and special guests.

Gatiss discusses the influence of Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes on his ridiculously popular television series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

Visit the BFI site here to explore their video collection and to further explore British film.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
Film details:

Featuring: Robert Stephens Colin Blakely Irene Handl
Director: Billy Wilder
Countries: Great Britain/USA
Year: 1970

Two Directors To Shoot Bergman’s ‘Scenes From A Marriage’ On Open Set (Cineuropa)

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Ingmar Bergman‘s 1973 Swedish television event, Scenes From A Marriage, chronicles 10 years of a couple’s relationship as they bond, deal with extra-marital affairs, split-up, etc.  Audiences found themselves connecting to the project’s honest narrative and as a result of the film’s large success, divorce rates increased dramatically and couples entering into counseling nearly doubled.  Artistically, the project enjoyed a wide scope of influence, causing numerous re-visits and remakes.

Now, the television mini-series will soon undergo an open set interpretation where the project will play out in front of a live studio audience.  The directors, Baker Karim and Sofia Norlin begin shooting the project as part of Bergman week on the island of Faro, situated near the Swedish mainland.

Jorn Rossing Jensen from Cineuropa explains, “Two Swedish directors, Baker Karim and Sofia Norlin, have worked on Bergman’s text together with students at Fårösund’s StoryEducation, a new educational scheme, and will film the scene with Swedish actors Alexander Karim and Josette Bushell-Mingo/Philomène Grandin in the roles originally played by Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann.”

In this incarnation which is to take place during the week of June 23-29, the audiences gain a deeper understanding not only of the relationship unfolding on stage but also of the filmmaking process.  Jensen further explains, “Audiences for the open stage will receive a copy of the screenplay before they enter the studio so that they can watch how it is transferred to pictures and words, while the film is simultaneously edited and cut. Two days later, the results will be screened, and the directors will discuss their experiences of working with Bergman’s material.”

Be sure to check out the article at Cineuropa for complete details, here.  Also, if you’ve never seen the piece, check out the introduction:

30 Years Of ‘Gremlins’: How Steven Spielberg Ushered In The Era Of PG-13 Blockbuster Entertainment: IndieWire

Gremlins_film_h2mUpon recent viewing of Gremlins, I was reminded of the glory of ’80s “family” films that did not shy away from violence and gore. Let’s be honest, life can get downright scary and to have films reflect that sentiment allegorically not only allows the young audience member solace in knowing they are not alone in the mess we call life, but in teaching where one can recognize familiar struggles they can also make light of them.

At the time of the release, while enjoying box office success the film did receive its share of criticism at the breadth of violence. “Vincent Canby in the New York Times asked, “will children cheer when Billy blows up the Kingston Falls movie theater, where the gremlins, now resembling an average kiddie matinee crowd, are exuberantly responding to ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’?”

Due to these criticisms and the growing dialogue about violence in film, Spielberg aligned with MPAA head Jack Valenti and pushed for a tougher rating system. While it can be seen easily as a PR move on behalf of Spielberg, what they came up with was a new rating between PG and R, one in wide use ever since, PG-13.

Ben Brock writes: “Two months later, “Red Dawn” became the first movie to be released as a PG-13 (nonsensically, “Gremlins” didn’t even get re-rated: you could still see it playing as a PG in August of that year, next to the new PG-13s).

PG-13 was a rating that allowed more latitude than the PG—which now essentially denoted a kid’s movie—but didn’t put the film off-limits to large audiences the way an R did. And it had been created not by outraged moral guardians, but by the filmmaker of the moment, the one who caused the trouble in the first place….

It was also the end of an era. Suddenly, making weird, kid-friendly, kid-frightening, adult-intriguing films wasn’t really possible; the arrival of the new rating had a chilling effect, and a kind of film that had been blossoming in the ‘80s suddenly died, becoming ghettoized as “for kids.” In 1982, Don Bluth’s uncanny, unexpected “The Secret of NIMH” had been a box-office success and a critical darling; Bluth ended up working with Spielberg on the much tamer and less interesting “An American Tail” a few years later. The same year as “NIMH,” Jim Henson’s “The Dark Crystal” was a weird, eerie all-ages hit; by the time the follow-up “Labyrinth” came around in 1986 no-one was interested, even with David Bowie’s crotch doing its best, and the film was a financial failure. “The Never-Ending Story” appeared in theaters a couple of months after “Gremlins” and was met with confusion. Disney panicked and demanded extensive cuts to their “Black Cauldron” project, which would have been their darkest ever film; when it came out in 1985, the censored version was a box-office flop that left behind an intriguing suggestion of a much better, forever-lost piece of work.

Other horror, freed from the burden of worrying about the kids, could be much nastier (although there’s also an argument that since PG-13 debuted, more mature films have been watered down to earn the certification). Followers of “Gremlins” like “Critters” are more brutal but lack the keen edge of the bizarre. Great comedy-horror continued to be made throughout the ‘80s—the decade that brought you “An American Werewolf in London” and “Evil Dead 2”—but it was very much for adults.”

Read more of Brock’s excellent article here.