Director Michael Curtiz's romp through Sherwood forest is a joyous adventure film that beautifully flaunts the glory of 3-strip technicolor film. The greens, blues and reds pop on the screen as swashbuckling Errol Flyyn challenges the status quo with his band of merry men. The Adventures of Robin Hood is Hollywood filmmaking at its finest, combining action, comedy, a little romance and enough male bonding to sink a ship. Flynn creates his signature character and exhibits the natural charm that endeared him to film fans throughout his career. The supporting cast is chock full of character actors and bonafide stars including Olivia DeHavilland, Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains, but its the merry men who steal the show by appearing as if each of them embodying their characters. Alan Hale as Little John and Eugene Pallette as Friar Tuck are particularly good, in career defining roles.
While The Adventures of Robin Hood was the most expensive film made by Warner Bros. Studio up to that time, at an estimated $2 million dollars, and the studio's first 3-strip Technicolor film, most of the budget can be seen in the finished product. The sets are sumptuous and the location scenes are rich in detail and beauty. But it's really Errol Flynn who demands to be looked at whenever he's on screen. His charismatic personae, often heightened by the twinkle in his eye, is perfectly matched to the mischievous Robin Hood and is matched by his graceful stunt work. Errol Flynn is Robin Hood and Robin Hood is Errol Flynn!
No other sport has been the subject of as many movies as boxing. Whether it's the story of a down on his luck former champ, like Jake LaMotta (Robert DeNiro) in Raging Bull ('80), a fighter exploited by unscrupulous promoters, like Charley Davis (John Garfield) in Body and Soul ('47), or the exploitive Midge Kelly (Kirk Douglas) in Champion ('49), boxing provides no shortage of characters, both good and bad. The corruption, the exploitation and the disregard for the boxers themselves often taints the films as dark and somewhat depressing, but one film was always different and that is the 1976 classic Rocky, directed by John Avildsen and starring Sylvester Stallone in a career defining role. Even as it has spawned 8 more movies, the original stands alone as the most beloved boxing film of all-time.
The story's one in a million plot, however, almost became a TV movie and then a potential vehicle for Robert Redford or Ryan O'Neal, among others. Sylvester Stallone, who wrote the script in less than 5 days, insisted his screenplay remain intact, killing the TV movie concept. He then pitched the movie to Hollywood studios with the stipulation that he star in the film, another deterrent for initial investment. Finally, finding willing producers in Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, provided the budget be kept below $1.2 million dollars, the film was greenlit. While the city of Philadelphia became a character in and of itself, thanks to the brilliant location shooting, the script was changed in several significant ways during production, changing the tone and the storyline.
Released in December, Rocky became the highest grossing film released in 1976 and the second highest grossing (to Star Wars) in 1977, with more than $115 million dollars (~$500 million adjusted for inflation) and was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning three, including Best Picture.
Veronica Lake and Joel McCrea star in writer/director Preston Sturges' madcap story of a Hollywood director out to find meaning in his life and subject matter for a film of consequence, after being pigeonholed as a director of lightweight comedies. Lake co-stars as an actress down on her luck, but plucky enough to guide director Sullivan (McCrea) through the trials and tribulations of their on the road adventure. Sullivan's Travels, and much of Sturges' work has influenced writers for decades, most notably Joel and Ethan Coen, who named their film O' Brother, Where Art Thou? after the film Sullivan wanted to create in this film.
Perhaps no other writer in Hollywood history experienced a meteoric rise and precipitous fall as Sturges did. A successful playwright by 29, Sturges was bought to Hollywood to first doctor scripts, then create his own, including classics like The Power and the Glory ('33), Easy Living ('37) and Remember the Night ('39). When he offered to write the script for The Great McGinty ('40) for $1, provided he could direct the film, Paramount granted his wish, setting a whirlwind 4 years where Sturges wrote and directed eight films, four of which are certified comedy classics and often named among the greatest ever made. That Sturges directed only 4 more films after 1944, sealed his fate as a 'flash in the pan', but those who are familiar with his work will attest to the amazing breadth of the content, the overwhelming depth of the verbal and physical comedy, and the wholly unique brand of movies that Sturges created. His legacy is worth discovering one film at a time and Sullivan's Travels is the best place to start!
When French film critics began to recognize patterns in American films arriving in post war Paris, they coined the term Film Noir to reflect the desolation, hopelessness and cynicism in American crime films. The film movement is generally believed to have begun with the 1941 release of The Maltese Falcon, reached its zenith in 1948, when more than 100 Noirs were released, and wained by 1958's capstone Touch of Evil. Even before America's film industry's adoption of more dark and stylized films, however, international films like Ossessione (Visconti, 1943) and Pepe Le Moko (Duvivier, 1937) in Italy and France respectively, were mining gold from the crime novels that were the stock and trade of Film Noir. Later, with filmmakers Jean-Pierre Melville (1967, Le Samourai), Jean-Luc Godard (1965, Alphaville) and American exile Jules Dassin (1955, Rafifi), France became the hub of the extension of the movement, mimicking American Noir, but adding subtle and magnificent twists to the cannon. Amongst those French films was director Louis Malle's Elevator to the Gallows, a taut and brilliant story of a perfect murder plot gone horribly wrong through one simple mistake. As with any noir plot, there is a woman, here played by the beautiful Jeanne Moreau, lost on the streets of Paris as she searches for her lover. As in so many Noir before, it is the inattention to detail that dooms the killer and Maurice Ronet brilliantly portrays the yearning for his lover, combined with the sense of dread as the walls literally hold him suspended. With a brilliant score, created in one all-night improvisational session by Miles Davis, Elevator to the Gallows ascends to among the best of not just French Noir of the later cycle, but along classics like Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice and The Killers.
The Marx Bros., Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo, turn a transatlantic voyage into an opportunity to create mayhem as only the Marx Bros. can! The third film in the Bros. cannon, but the first with an original screenplay, Monkey Business has been hailed alongside Animal Crackers as one of their best. Typical of many Pre-Code comedies, censors attempted to limit the sexual innuendo, but the film was ultimately banned in Ireland for fear of fostering anarchic tendencies, which was uniquely the Marx Bros. Many of the sexual jokes remain and of course the anarchy reigns supreme, but it is the wordplay, quick quips and ridiculous physical comedy that create a comedy classic! Thelma Todd co-stars, and a certain line of dialogue foreshadows her death just 4 years later.
When the brothers harmonize Sweet Adeline, while concealed in separate fish barrels, there exists debate as to whether Harpo participates, which would mark one of the very rare examples of Harpo's voice on film! Join us the screening for a lively discussion of the genius of the Marx Bros., their influence on American comedy and where Monkey Business ultimately ranks in their amazing cannon of classic comedy!
William Friedkin's masterpiece of suspense and terror comes to Motor City Cinema Society to celebrate its 50th Anniversary! Initially released on just 24 screens on December 26th, 1973, The Exorcist would go on to gross more than $193 million dollars in it first run. Named the scariest film ever made by the American Film Institute, Entertainment Weekly and countless other publications and website's, the film has spawned sequels, reboots, imitators and parodies, but the original is one of a kind!
Based on screenwriter William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel of the same name, The Exorcist book almost sunk into oblivion, an initial publishing failure. It was only after Blatty's appearance on "The Dick Cavett Show", where he argued for the existence of the devil, that book sales took off, rising to the top of the New York Times best seller list, and came to the attention of Hollywood. Friedkin was Blatty's first choice for director, but Warner Bros. balked at the cast of unknowns, particularly when production delays drove up costs. In a calculated move, the studio 'four walled' the 24 screens, paying a flat fee for use of the theaters, instead of splitting the box office, as was the normal practice. The sold out run was immensely profitable for the studio and gave them the confidence to roll the film out wide and create a national frenzy for tickets, some offered with barf bags to aid in the clean up of overly sensitive viewers.
Friedkin, having made his other masterpiece, The French Connection ('71), two years earlier, often remarked that he spent the rest of his career 'climbing uphill to the bottom', in reference to trying to live up to these two classics. While he certainly had his ups and downs, the maker of To Live and Die in LA, Cruising, Sorcerer, and the recent Caine Mutiny Court Martial ('23), certainly had a career worthy of greatness. Friedkin died on August 7th,
George Romero's Night of the Living Dead created the zombie sub-genre with his 1968 classic. Made independently, on a shoestring budget in and around Pittsburgh, Night of the Living Dead has been identified by Sight and Sound Magazine as one of the three most important and influential Horror films of all-time (The others: The Bride of Frankenstein and Psycho). The film both reimagined and reinvigorated the horror genre by recasting the idea of a singular killer/monster stalking people into the possibility that all of humanity, both past and present, could rise up to kill everyone! The zombie film tropes that were created by Romero are too numerous to mention, but where would we be without the 'kill the brain, kill the monster' mantra pioneered in Night of the Living Dead? If World War Z, The Walking Dead, Shaun of the Dead , and countless others have taught us anything, it's that there is always hope, as long as you can get that kill shot through the brain! Through countless sequels, reboots, offshoots, parodies and imitations, the original still rings the truest and the most frightening! Join us and enjoy Night of the Living Dead, projected on glorious 16mm film, as it was meant to be seen!!
Along with Susperia, Deep Red is generally considered director Dario Argento's masterpiece. A brilliant murder thriller that captures the essence of Argento's iconic use of color and framing, Deep Red helped built Argento's reputation as the "Italian Hitchcock" for his inventive storytelling that continually left viewers on the edge of their seats! After beginning his career as a critic while still a teenager, Argento collaborated with Bernardo Bertolucci on the script for Sergio Leone's classic Once Upon a Time in the West in 1968. Two years later he wrote and directed The Bird with a Crystal Plumage, the first of three horror/mysteries dubbed 'the animal trilogy' that also included The Cat o' Nine Tails ('71) and Four Flies on Grey Velvet ('71). It was Deep Red, made in 1975 and Susperia, made in 1977, that made him internationally famous and cemented his reputation as a great director and one of the leading horror filmmakers in the world. Deep Red also was the first of many collaborations Argento did with Claudio Simonetti's prog rock band Goblin! Starring David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, and Gabriele Lavia, Deep Red runs 2 hours and 7 minutes. Argento's most recent film, Dark Glasses was released in 2022