Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Summer of ’82: The Secret of NIMH

Fante’s Inferno revisits the Summer of 1982, considered to be the greatest movie summer for fantasy and sci-fi fans.

The Secret of NIMH

Release Date: 7/2/82

Directed by Don Bluth; Written by Don Bluth, John Pomeroy, Gary Goldman and Will Finn; based on the novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien

Starring: Elizabeth Hartman, Derek Jacobi, Arthur Malet, Dom DeLuise, Peter Strauss, Paul Shenar, Aldo Ray, John Carradine

See the trailer here.

The Secret of NIMH is one of my favorite animated films of all time along with Watership Down, Fire and Ice, and Heavy Metal.  One thing that always concerns me when I revisit an animated feature from the 70’s or 80’s is the possibility of losing the excitement I had for the film when compared to present day animation.  Luckily this didn’t happen when I watched NIMH earlier this week.

As amazing as 3D animation looks, I still have more of an appreciation for the technique of 2D, hand drawn animation.  I still consider The Secret of NIMH to be one of the best examples of traditional animation in the last 50 years, and I say this knowing that many Disney fans will disagree with me.  One thing I forgot over the years was how striking the background paintings were.  Each of them stood on their own as more than just background, they were works of art that set the mood and tone of the film.

One game I like to play when I research a film on iMDb is a “where are they now” of the cast.  Of the films I’ve revisited so far in my Summer of ’82 series of posts, the cast of The Secret of NIMH surprised me the most.  I easily remembered Derek Jacobi as Nicodemus and Dom DeLuise as Jeremy the crow, but I was surprised to find the voice of Mrs. Brisby was Elizabeth Hartman, who earned an Oscar nomination for her performance as Sidney Poitier’s blind love interest in the 1965 film A Patch of Blue.  Other surprises were Shannen Doherty and Wil Wheaton as Mrs. Brisby’s children Teresa and Martin, and Peter Strauss as Justin.  Aldo Ray was the voice of Sullivan.  And how about John Carradine as the Great Owl!  Don Bluth and Gary Goldman pulled out all the stops with this film (their first animated feature after they left Disney) and they definitely invested in a great cast.

I was surprised The Secret of NIMH was given a G rating considering many of the darker elements in the film.  I remembered the scene of the rats going through the tests at NIMH as being too much for a child to be able to handle at a young age, but even scenes such as Mrs. Brisby’s meeting with the Great Owl and her first encounter with the rat Brutus might scare the bejeezus out of out of a young child.

Thirty years later, The Secret of NIMH doesn’t only hold up, it reminds me of why I love animation.  The story, characters and especially the animation drew me back in and brought me back to my local theater back in 1982.  All I needed was a large Coke and a 1/2 pound bag of strawberry Twizzlers.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Summer of ’82: The Thing

Fante’s Inferno revisits the films of the Summer of 1982, considered to be the greatest movie summer for fantasy and sci-fi fans.

The Thing

Directed by John Carpenter; Screenplay by Bill Lancaster based on the story Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr.

Starring: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Donald Moffat, Richard Dysart, T.K. Carter, David Clenn0n, Richard Mazur, Thomas G. Waites, Joel Polis

The trailer can be seen here.

I haven’t seen John Carpenter’s The Thing since the mid 80’s, and I don’t remember it having as big of an impact on me as several of the other films that were released during the Summer of ’82.  Over time I may have dismissed The Thing as an Alien-esque knockoff, but watching it again this weekend I realized how little I remembered about this film and how wrong my initial assessment was.

Back in ’82 I was too young to really appreciate this film as a psychological thriller.  As a ten year old I cared more about the special effects and gore.  This time around I was able to truly appreciate the performances of the entire cast, particularly Wilford Brimley and Donald Moffat.  The scenes of confusion, paranoia, and survival had more of an impact on me as a viewer than the gory sequences.  I thought Kurt Russell was the epitome of badass as Snake Plissken in Escape From New York, and his character of R.J. MacReady in The Thing oozes the same confidence.  Maybe a little too much at times.  Considering the fact that they’re dealing with a shape shifting alien that can easily take over their bodies, he seemed a little too much in control for me to find his character believable today.  Although Keith David did give him strong competition in the badass category when he broke out the flame thrower.

One thing I loved about The Thing was the pace of the film.  The opening shot of alien’s ship in distress as it entered Earth’s atmosphere was quick and effective.  The sequence of the Norwegians chasing a Siberian Huskie along the frozen landscape of Antarctica in an attempt to kill it adds to the sense of mystery.  The introduction of the staff at the American scientific base quickly and effectively sets up their situation in Antarctica (boredom and isolation) without wasting too much time on exposition.  Alien ship crash lands on Earth, dog chased along the frozen landscape, Norwegian gets shot.  What the heck is this group in for?

The gore and special effects were great for the time, but the autopsy scenes creeped me out more than the alien working its way through the members of the camp.  One thing that really surprised me watching it with today’s sensibilities is that these characters were way too comfortable with exposure to germs and blood (MacReady inspecting what could be contaminated clothing without gloves, and Windows simply wiping the blood off of a scalpel before cutting his own finger with it).  These little things actually got me to cringe more than the gory scenes.

Based on the short story Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr. (who is considered the father of modern science fiction) The Thing was the second adaptation of his story on film (the first was The Thing From Another World in 1951).  John Carpenter had been at his A game for years by 1982, but his storytelling reached a whole new level with The Thing.  In my opinion the heightened sense of isolation, paranoia and distrust among the characters makes it hold up better today than Halloween and The Fog.  Bill Lancaster’s screenplay keeps us guessing as we try to figure out who in the group was the next one to be infected by the thing.  At one point I thought to myself that this story could have also worked as a stage play.  Prior to watching it this weekend, I expected a lot more gore and a lot less psychological drama and was pleasantly surprised when the opposite played out.  Each scene makes you wonder when and how the axe will fall on these guys.  I enjoyed it back then, but watching it again 30 years later turned out to be more enjoyable than I expected.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

INTERVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises Producer Michael Uslan on Batman

I had the opportunity to interview producer Michael Uslan (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Constantine, National Treasure) when he was in New York to speak at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art about his memoir The Boy Who Loved Batman (published by Chronicle Books) which chronicles his life and career from young comic book collector to film producer.  His latest film, the highly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises  directed by Christopher Nolan, hits theaters tomorrow.

It was a childhood trip to the local candy store with his older brother Paul that introduced Michael Uslan to Detective Comics and a character named Batman.

“I was about five years old …and my brother had brought me to the first candy store I had ever been to.  I’d never seen a rack of comics before…floor to ceiling, wall to wall comic books.  …I think it was a Detective Comics, it was my first look at Batman.  I had known Superman because the TV show was on the air, so every kid in the 50’s knew of Superman, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen. But Batman was something new, and it was clearly something darker, it was immediately clear it was something more adult than I was prepared for.  And why do I remember this cover?  Because it had this picture of this car this guy was driving, but it was not the Batmobile we all kind of remember as the 50’s Batmobile, this particular issue had a Batmobile that was an urban assault tank.  Not to be seen again really for many, many decades later when it somehow mystically showed up in Batman Begins.  What a coincidence!  And then I was hooked.”

By the time he graduated high school, he had amassed a collection of 30,000 comic books dating back to 1936.  Some of his personal treasures such as Amazing Fantasy #15 (the first appearance of Spider-Man), Fantastic Four #1, and The Hulk #1 just to name a few are each worth five to six figures today, and he purchased a lot of them for a dime apiece.

Yep, that’s right, folks.  A dime apiece.  That includes four pristine copies of Fantastic Four #1 that he was forced to purchase by the crotchety old candy store owner who saw him thumbing through the other three copies to find the best one.  That 40 cent shakedown turned into $208,000.

He still owns many of those iconic comic books because thankfully, unlike many parents of the day, his mother didn’t throw them out on the condition he also read novels and news articles.

Bless you, Mrs. Uslan!

But the turning point in his life came on a cold night in January 1966 when a new television show called Batman premiered on ABC.

“Finally, after only having seen George Reeves in The Adventures of Superman, Batman was coming to television.  I couldn’t wait for this show.  And then it came on the air, and I was simultaneously thrilled and horrified by what I was seeing on TV.  I was thrilled because it was in color, the sets were extravagant, the car was cool, that opening animation looked just like Bob Kane’s work.  But then I was horrified that the whole world was laughing at Batman.  They had made a mockery of Batman.  He was a pot-bellied funny guy who POWs, ZAPs and WHAMs.  Who was there doing the Bat-tusi, and it just killed me.”

It was at that moment that Michael took his “young Bruce Wayne” vow: he would bring a dark, serious version of Batman to the silver screen.

“I swore that somehow, someday, some way, I would show the world what the real, true Batman was like.  The Batman.  The creature of the night who stalks criminals from the shadows, the way he was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939.  I would find some way to eliminate from the collective consciousness of the world culture, those three little words POW, ZAP and WHAM.  And that became my mission.”

Michael Uslan went on to executive produce all seven Batman films with his executive producing partner Benjamin Melniker starting with 1989’s Batman starring Michael Keaton and directed by Tim Burton.

The Boy Who Loved Batman gives the readers Uslan’s first hand account of the steps and roadblocks along the way: from his early days of comic collecting, to teaching the first comic book related college course in America while a junior at the Indiana University, to how he got his first writing assignment for DC Comics, to the ten year odyssey he endured to bring Batman to the movie screen after securing the rights.  A comic or movie fan can’t help but be inspired by the stories of his persistence.

Michael Uslan signing The Boy Who Loved Batman at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art.
Photo by Fabrizio Fante

What is it about Batman that makes him withstand the test of time over 70 years?

Uslan: I keep saying it’s these three things:  First, It’s the fact he has no superpowers and that his greatest superpower is his humanity.  Number two, it’s that primal origin story that transcends borders and demographics and cultures.  And number three, he has the greatest super villains in the world.  And that is probably the main cause of longevity in this superhero.  And nobody can touch Batman’s rogue’s gallery.  They just can’t.  So I think that’s what keeps him fresh and will always keep him fresh.

Who’s your favorite villain in Batman’s rogue’s gallery?

Joker.

Is there a villain that you think has been under represented and should be touched on more in the stories? 

Catwoman.  I think the greatest villainess since the Dragon Lady (of Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates comic strip).  Batman’s predilection for bad girls is worthy of exploration through Catwoman.  The relationship makes Catwoman a stronger character than she is individually.

Two-Face.  Scarecrow.  I tend toward those psychologically damaged villains more than I do toward a Penguin or a Mad-Hatter.

Ra’s al Ghul.  I think one of the greatest Batman villains ever created, and nobody really cares for him as much because he was created in the 1970’s after the TV show.  So he’s not ingrained in the culture and he should be.

Man-Bat.  I think it’s a beautiful, dark romance that certainly is a modern day take on Doctor Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde and I find it fascinating.

The Reaper.  One of the most powerful Batman stories ever told: The Night of the Reaper is probably my second favorite Batman story of all time.

Which of the many comic book characters that haven’t gotten the full movie treatment would you like to see on film?

My favorite was always Captain Marvel…the Harry Potter of superheroes.  It could be spectacular and different, and based on family.  The Shadow.  His best interpretations outside of print were on radio.  I would love to see it visually done in a stunning way.  I’m a big fan of the pulps: The Shadow, Doc Savage, things like that.  Some of my favorite comic books growing up were Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, which to me is like The Right Stuff of superheroes, when they go out and recruit these guys in real life to be superheroes and every power has a curse attached to it.  I loved that.  Doctor Strange.  Fabulous material.  The Question.  I had a chance to write that with Alex Toth.  I was the first writer after Steve Ditko, and working with Toth I never learned so much about graphic storytelling in my life.  That was fun. That’s another character I have a soft spot in my heart for.  That pretty much sums it up.

What is your take on the current state of comic books?  In the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s the stories were more about adventure and now the storylines seem geared more toward the internal turmoil of characters vs. going out and fighting the bad buys.  In your opinion how do today’s comics measure up to the comics of your youth?

A world apart.  Comic books when I was a kid were aimed at 7 to 12 year old boys and today’s they’re aimed at adults.  And in too many cases kids are ignored, and so are women.  And for awhile it was Manga that was filling that gap.  And I’m happy to see comics become a little more diverse and opening the doors again to kids and females which is important.  Technologically the comics are completely different.  The graphic storytelling has changed.  One of my pet peeves is when I open up a $3 or $4 comic book and there’s an average of seven words on a page.  It’s called a comic book.  It’s supposed to be art and words mixed together and not having the words abdicated entirely to the artist.  So I like my comics to have more meat on them in terms of their literary value.  You’re right, this started with Stan Lee with Marvel Comics when he began to create conflicts based on internal conflicts more than the external conflicts of super-villains or aliens or whatever.  And that it became more important as a Marvel reader what was going on in Peter Parker’s life and in Spider-Man’s life.  The torture of the Hulk, the military industrial complex, science gone mad, but it was that switch over to the internal conflicts.  And now I think today that is the rule rather than the exception, even with the villains.  When the villains come in they are internally conflicted and the relationships between the heroes and the villains, the symbiotic relationships, are explored opening doors to make it feel more mature, to make it feel more real to a much older reader.  But the days when I picked up a comic book to be entertained for pure escapism, it’s not quite the same.  And sometimes I feel I’m weighted down by a lot of them and other times I feel they’re inappropriately dark and gritty just to try to keep pace with what everybody else seems to be doing.  And the movies can make the same mistake.  You can’t have the dark and gritty Superman.  You can’t have the dark and gritty Ant-Man.  And for God’s sake you can’t start making Casper the Unfriendly Ghost.

If you were to make a Batman movie in the 1940’s what talent would you put together for that project?

Wow.   Let me start with director.  My directors would be Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, Max Fleischer, they would be my first three.  Stars, oh my God, stars…Douglas Fairbanks Sr.  Did you ever see The Mark of Zorro, the silent version?  I showed everybody when we originally started Batman this scene where Zorro challenges the commandante to have breakfast with him in the center of town.  They set the table for him and he leaps in through a window, sits, takes a bite, and he springs out the next window.  I said, “That’s Batman.  That’s what’s got to be captured.”

You took an idea you had as a teenager and not only made it your life’s mission, but made good on it by producing all seven Batman films starting with Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989.  In your book you describe the obstacles you faced for ten years trying to get the film made.  Where did this persistence come from?

Passion.  If I had to boil my life down to one word, it’s “passion.”  I was raised by an amazing woman who not only let me keep my comic books, but brought up my brother and I in a way that once you make a commitment, you honor it. Period.  End of story.  You’re not happy?  You’re sad having to be on this little league team because you hate your coach?  I’m sorry but you made a commitment to the kids on your team and you have to see this through.  Next year you don’t have to do it, but you made a commitment, you see it through.  I made a commitment to bring a dark and serious Batman to the silver screen.  I thought it was going to be a breeze.  It wasn’t.  And I’ve learned since that I can accomplish anything I want to in life, but always the longest, hardest possible way.  There was never an easy path for me.  There was never a quick path.  You look at the other movies I was involved with: Constantine, National Teasure.  These movies have taken nine, eleven years to bring to the screen.  So I’ve always got there but never the easy way.  And so I have a bit of a siege mentality as a result.  I don’t expect anything less than agony (laughs) and duration to get to where I want to go.  But I so want to get to where I want to go that I’ve learned how to channel that frustration and deal with it and not let it beat me.

A very special thanks to Michael Uslan for taking the time to meet with me for this interview, and to the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art for the opportunity.

Please note this interview, and all original content on FantesInferno.com is copyright Fabrizio Fante and FantesInferno.com and cannot be copied or used on any platform or in any format without expressed written consent.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Summer of ’82: Poltergeist

Fante’s Inferno revisits the Summer of 1982, considered the greatest movie summer for fantasy and sci-fi fans.

Poltergeist

Poltergeist
MGM

Release Date: June 4, 1982

Directed by Tobe Hooper; Screenplay by Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais, Mark Victor

Starring: Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, Beatrice Straight, Zelda Rubinstein

View the original trailer here.

“The house looks just like the one next to it, and the one next to that, and the one next to that.”

I always remembered that line from the original trailer for Poltergeist.  Watching it again this week made me remember why it worked on so many levels.  Jaws could make people afraid of the water.  Poltergeist could make you afraid of your house (or clowns).

As I’ve pointed out in my previous posts on the films of The Summer of ’82, I have a preference for old school special effects over today’s CGI.  Watching Poltergeist 30 years later, I’m amazed at how little there was in terms of special effects for the first two-thirds of the film.  With the exception of an animated hand poking out of the television, it’s mostly flashing lights and invisible wires moving furniture until the cause of the disturbances make themselves known later in the film.  Funny thing is, these low tech effects still hold up very well.  Heck, for most of the movie TV static is one of main elements of the story line, even a character in the film.  Talk about a cheap special effect!

Tobe Hooper is credited as the director of Poltergeist, but there has been some debate over how much of the film he directed.  Produced by Steven Spielberg (he also has a writing credit), Poltergeist could easily be mistaken for one of his directorial efforts.  The Freeling’s neighborhood in the opening credit sequence of Poltergeist looked more like Elliot’s neighborhood in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, and several close ups and the use of flashing lights in the film are reminiscent of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Watching the film this week I noticed for the first time that A Guy Named Joe with Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne is playing on Steve and Diane’s bedroom TV early in the film.  Spielberg would remake this film into Always in 1989.

Poltergeist spawned two sequels (Poltergeist II: The Other Side) in 1986 and Poltergeist III in 1988).  Sadly, two members of the original cast suffered untimely deaths: Dominique Dunn (Dana Freeling), the daughter of Dominick Dunne, was murdered prior to her 23rd birthday several months after Poltergeist’s premiere, and Heather O’Rourke (Carol Anne Freeling) died due to an illness in 1988 at the age of 12.

Watching Poltergeist brought me back to the Summer of ’82 more than the other films I’ve revisited.  It was one of my favorite films that year and I’ve lost track of how many times I watched it on cable TV.  Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams were perfect as Steve and Diane Freeling, and their son Robbie Freeling’s room could have easily been my room growing up with all of the Star Wars and NFL merchandise.  Thirty years later Poltergeist is not as dated as I thought it would be.  Two elements of the film that might be considered dated or confusing to a young viewer would be the opening shot of the Star Spangled Banner playing on a television late at night, and a household that doesn’t have cable TV.

One thing that did make me feel old watching Poltergeist is the fact that both Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams were younger than me when they played their roles in this film.  Sigh.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Captain America Project #9: David Finch

The Captain America Project: 20 artists, 20 drawings of Captain America on one page.

This week: David Finch (Ultimate X-Men, New Avengers, Moon Knight, Batman: The Dark Knight)

David Finch has been one of my favorite artists since his run on New Avengers.  The first page of original art I bought was from New Avengers #13.  In subsequent years I picked up a couple of pages from his Moon Knight run, and a few sketches at the New York conventions.

One week after the 2010 Wizard World New York show, he was appearing at the New York Comic Con at the Jacob Javitz center.  He was the first artist I commissioned for the Captain America Project at that show.  I had commissioned a few sketches from David in the previous three New York Comic Cons, and I have always been in awe of his artistic ability.  Check out his series of DVDs for the Gnomon Workshop and you’ll see what I mean.  But he took it to a whole new level with this Captain America head sketch.  Take a close look at the picture below.  It was drawn with a ball point pen.  No pencil sketch underneath.  He just flat out drew it straight from his mind’s eye.  In ballpoint pen.  Amazing.

Captain America by David Finch

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Thoughts On The Amazing Spider-Man Reboot

The Amazing Spider-Man
Sony Pictures Entertainment

The numbers are in and The Amazing Spider-Man has pulled in $65 million for the weekend, $141 million for the 4th of July week, and $341 million worldwide.

Here’s a film that one month ago I had very little interest in seeing.  Not because the previous three films directed by Sam Raimi were too fresh in my mind or because I felt that theaters are over saturated with comic book films (that thought is sacrilege in my mind!).  Since this reboot was first announced, my first and only thought was: Why?  The origin story was already covered in Spider-Man 1, which for the most part was pretty accurate to the original 1962 story in Amazing Fantasy #15.  By now people know how Peter Parker became Spider-Man even if they’ve never read the comic books.  Socially awkward bookworm Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider, can climb walls, develops web shooters, lets it get to his head, Uncle Ben gets…you know what I mean.

Then a month ago I watched the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man.

Hmmmm.  Liked it.  OK, I’m curious now.

When my interest level reached that point, I couldn’t help thinking about the one major thing I didn’t like about the Sam Raimi films.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked Spider-Man 1 and I loved Spider-Man 2 (I prefer not to discuss Spider-Man 3, I’ll just leave it at that), but there was one element of those films that the comic fan in me couldn’t ignore: replacing Gwen Stacy in the first two films with Mary Jane Watson, which was absolutely unnecessary.  It goes beyond the dynamic of nerdy kid falls in love with and gets the pretty girl, which in my opinion was the only dynamic between Peter and Mary Jane in the Raimi films.  Having Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man brings a lot more to the story.  Peter’s relationship with Gwen in turn creates a relationship with her father, Captain Stacy, which existed in the comic books but didn’t exist in the first two Raimi films.  Seeing Emma Stone in the role of Gwen made me want to give The Amazing Spider-Man a chance.

I checked out The Amazing Spider-Man at a matinee on the 4th of July.  The theater was about 2/3 full for the 11:30 AM screening.  By the time the movie ended, I was satisfied and for the most part the rest of the audience enjoyed it as well.  While people will continue to debate the need for a reboot in 2012, whether it’s necessary/justified or not I think The Amazing Spider-Man stands on its own.  That’s not to say it’s perfect.  It’s not as visually dynamic as the Sam Raimi films.  Some of the CGI looked a bit cartoony, particularly the Lizard.  Most importantly, a couple of details from Spidey’s comic book origin were simplified, particularly Uncle Ben’s murder (for the record, I refuse to consider that tidbit a spoiler alert and prefer to give my readers the benefit of the doubt) and the events that led Peter to understand “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man is less action and more drama compared to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 1.  It changed several elements of the Spider-Man canon (e.g. Peter’s discovery of the extent of his powers, the circumstances of Uncle Ben’s death), a greater emphasis on Peter’s parents and their disappearance, and more drama to Peter’s relationship with Uncle Ben and Aunt May.  Personally I thought Martin Sheen was fantastic as Uncle Ben (this coming from a huge Cliff Robertson fan), and I think an actress of Sally Field’s caliber will bring a lot to Aunt May’s character in future films.  Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Peter Parker wasn’t as socially awkward as Tobey Maguire’s.  Garfield was a bit too confident as Peter at times, but was effective in bringing some of Spider-Man’s smart-aleckyness from the comic books to the screen.

Things I liked about this film:

Gwen Stacy
The web shooters are back
Peter’s relationship with Uncle Ben
The Lizard

Things I didn’t like as much (SPOILERS):

Gwen’s connection to Dr. Connors wasn’t very plausible.
Not including the famous line of dialogue regarding great power and great responsibility.
The circumstances leading to Uncle Ben’s murder.
Spider-Man was unmasked in a scene that should have made his identity public.

The one question I have difficulty answering is whether or not the reboot was necessary.   Most likely it wasn’t, but overall this film stands on its own even if the first three were not made.  Despite a few caveats, it was still very enjoyable and I’m looking forward to the next film.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Summer of ’82: The Road Warrior

Fante’s Inferno revisits the Summer of 1982, considered to be the greatest movie summer for fantasy and sci-fi fans.

The Road Warrior

The Road Warrior
Warner Bros. Pictures

Release Date: 5/21/82

Directed by George Miller; Screenplay by Terry Hayes and George Miller

Starring Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Kjell Nilsson, Vernon Wells

The Road Warrior was originally released in Australia in 1981, but made its U.S. debut in May of 1982.  Director George Miller (Mad Max, Happy Feet) did an amazing job with this film.  When I watched it again this week, the driving sequences still got my adrenaline going, especially the unforgettable and iconic shot of Wez (played by Vernon Wells) climbing over the hood of Max’s rig in the film’s key action sequence.  Cinematographer Dean Semler shot The Road Warrior in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and his photography makes the deserted red landscape more than just scenery, it’s a character in the film.  My DVD has the standard version as well as widescreen.  To watch this film in pan and scan is a crime.

Australian cinema was making a big impression on me at that time.  In addition to The Road Warrior there were quite a few Australian films that I love from the early 80’s, particularly Gallipoli, The Year of Living Dangerously, and Breaker Morant.  I also remember other lesser known Australian films such as The Odd Angry Shot and The Club playing in heavy rotation on cable TV back then.  In addition to George Miller, my favorite Australian directors are Bruce Beresford (Breaker Morant, Tender Mercies, Driving Miss Daisy) and Peter Weir (Gallipoli, Witness, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World).  Miller’s directing career has incredible range, from action films (Mad Max, The Road Warrior, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome) to dramas (The Witches of Eastwick, Lorenzo’s Oil) to family films (Happy Feet, Happy Feet 2).

I’m looking forward to Mad Max 4: Fury Road (also directed by Miller), although to me it will be strange to see another actor (Tom Hardy, who plays Bane in The Dark Knight Rises) in the role of Mad Max.  There’s no doubt in my mind that it’ll be a high octane ride, but I truly hope that the film keeps the driving sequences as CGI free as possible.

I think The Road Warrior plays just as well now as it did in 1982.  The premise holds up today, the action scenes still pack a punch, and overall it doesn’t feel as dated as other films of the early 80s.  One small distraction was the film’s questionable wardrobe.  Luckily the collapse of civilization occurred after the last major shipment of American football shoulder pads, hockey masks and leather chaps to Australia.  The one thing about this film that makes me feel old is the fact that the actor that plays the Feral Kid (Emil Minty) is my age.  I have to stop looking up this stuff on IMDB…

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Captain America Project #8: Herb Trimpe

The Captain America Project: 20 artists, 20 drawings of Captain America on one page.

This week: Herb Trimpe (The Incredible Hulk, The Defenders)

This particular sketch from legendary Marvel artist Herb Trimpe was the last one I commissioned at Wizard World NY in October 2010.

I’ve been a fan of Herb’s work since the 70s.  I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the first comic books I bought as a kid was drawn by Herb.  I consider him an artist whose work defines the art of the Bronze Age.

Almost one half of this project was completed over that two day event.  At this point in time I won’t give away how much of this jam page is complete, but I will say that it’s almost done.

Captain America drawn by Herb Trimpe

Tagged , , , , , ,