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Wednesday, Sep 10, 2014
Minnesota Clay is a rocky but nonetheless promising start for legendary director Sergio Corbucci.

It’s hard not to compare Minnesota Clay (1964) to A Fistful of Dollars (1964). Not only were they filmed at the same time, released the same year, and both made by men named Sergio—Sergio Corbucci in the first case and Sergio Leone in the second—but they also used the same source material to tell similar stories. The source material used was Dashiell Hammett’s early hardboiled detective novel, Red Harvest (1929), along with Akira Kurosowa‘s cinematic samurai version of that novel, Yojimbo (1961). The stories told involve marksmen who, after arriving to towns in turmoil due to on-going gang wars, pin one gang against the other to bring gold to their pockets and peace to the citizens.


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Tuesday, Sep 9, 2014
No, David Cronenberg’s Total Recall never made it to the screen. And we are all the poorer for it.

This article is adapted from the book The Sci-Fi Movie Guide (Visible Ink, 2014).


Even were it not for the mental anguish brought about by the revival of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it would be obvious we live in strange times, cinematically speaking. To wit: Every other movie playing in theaters features alien invasions, bionic bodysuit weaponry, time travel, or a half-dozen other elements that make a geeky kid’s heart beat just that much faster. You would think, then, that studios would be dusting off every science-fiction script their D-girls passed on over the past couple decades and working out how to put Matthew McConaughey in it.


But there are still drawers full of unproduced maybe-classics out there just waiting for somebody to give them a couple hundred million bucks and a few movie stars to play with. Here are some of the more legendary never-produced science-fiction films that should be green-lit tomorrow. Before you ask: No; these films would almost definitely not make their money back. But after Cowboys & Aliens, Transformers, and Star Trek Into Darkness Hollywood owes us a few gimmes in exchange for allowing Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman to debase the entire field of cinematic science fiction.


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Tuesday, Sep 9, 2014
Both No Highway in the Sky and 5 Fingers are two excellent examples of post-war Hollywood cinema shot abroad.

After World War II, Hollywood studios began making films in England and elsewhere in Europe. Available on demand from Fox Cinema Archives are two such items of the early ‘50s: No Highway in the Sky and 5 Fingers, both wonderfully civilized suspense films.


James Stewart plays perfectly in his element as Theodore Honey, an absent-minded American “boffin” (as the limeys call scientific chaps) testing aircraft metal fatigue in No Highway in the Sky. He’s introduced with bumbling eccentricities, such as forgetting which house he lives in and raising his plain, retiring daughter (Janette Scott) as a lonely genius. It’s all well-played, amusing, and disarming. The suspense begins when he realizes he’s on an airplane that’s about to crash, according to his calculations. He warns the crew and a glamorous movie star (Marlene Dietrich, basically playing herself), and they all await the outcome tensely.


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Monday, Sep 8, 2014
The Last of Robin Hood is relatively harmless. That is also its major flaw, considering the harmful subject matter.

Can a serious movie be made about a May/December romance where one party is in his late ‘40s and the other is only 15? Can the “he”, a former dashing matinee idol (Errol Flynn) who already escaped one accusation of statutory rape really be seen as sympathetic, or even socially acceptable, given his proclivities? Can the “she”, a teenager of suspect talents (Beverly Aadland) be anything other than a victim?


No matter the times or the temperament, no matter a mother who basically pimps her child out for a possibility at fame (and the accompanying fortune) or the studio system and media, which sheepishly look the other way, can a film like this work? The answer, once you’ve seen The Last of Robin Hood, is “No.”


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Monday, Sep 8, 2014
Magic Boy is Japanese animated cinema in the style of Disney.

Magic Boy has the distinction of being the second Japanese animated feature in color. The first was The Tale of the White Serpent (1958), released in the US as Panda and the Magic Serpent in July 1961. Since MGM distributed the English-dubbed Magic Boy in June 1961 (according to IMDB), it was the first to be seen in the US. That version is now available on demand from Warner Archive.


Sasuke is a boy who lives in the forest with his older sister and his little animal friends. When the faun’s mother is killed by a sea monster who is actually an evil witch (as indicated by traditional long black hair and chalk-white skin), Sasuke climbs a mountain to learn magic from a hermit. This takes three years, during which neither he nor the baby animals ever get bigger. After the obligatory training sequences, there’s a big fight—lots of death but no blood—in which he’s aided by the local handsome prince who’d been so unhelpful in saving the village from destruction by the witch’s army.


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