The Incredible Alternate Possibilities of Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters’

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND made a huge impact on me when I saw it as an impressionable nine-year-old way back in November of 1977. Four decades later, on the anniversary of the Oscar winner’s November 16 theatrical debut, I can’t stop thinking about it.close_encounters_richard_dreyfuss.jpgThe film touched a nerve deep inside of me, not unlike that of Roy Neary after his personal encounter with mysterious extraterrestrials. I became obsessed. I saw it multiple times in the theater. I talked with my friends about it daily. I drew pictures and storyboards of aliens, spaceships, and flying saucers. I carved lines in my mashed potatoes at dinner. I wanted to see a U.F.O. for real. I wanted to know for a fact that We Are Not AloneDHKOaFjUwAEolXK.jpg

But since friendly invaders weren’t going out of their way to tap on my bedroom window and whisk me away to another world in 1977, I had to be satisfied with whatever merchandise I could get my hands on: The Marvel comic-book adaptation; the film’s Fotonovel; Bob Balaban’s CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND DIARY, repeated listens to John Williams’ brilliant soundtrack and Meco’s disco version on 45.

I soaked up all the details I could get my hands on and became somewhat of a know-it-all expert at 10 years old. Now, a lifetime later, I get to supplement all those studied factoids with Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Ultimate Visual History (written by Michael Klastorin for HarperCollins), the new behind-the-scenes companion book out just in time for the film’s 40th anniversary.

It’s full of material I’ve never seen before, including compelling concept art, amazing set photos, storyboards, script notes, trade paper clippings, memos, and correspondence. It also collects a number of narratives that paint a much broader context of what it was like to make the film compared to Bob Balaban’s singular CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND DIARY recollections published in 1978. 81KXvkBG-vL

In the new book’s foreword by Steven Spielberg, the writer/director says that the seeds of the film were planted when his father took him as a boy to watch the Perseid meteor shower. He also explains that the project remains one of his most personal: “The idea that we are not alone — the hope that we are not alone — is a theme I’ve returned to in several films since [the release of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS], some frightening, some gentle. But the optimism of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS will always remain close to my heart.” f2d7a4ebf2589a60a409f244bd255440--steven-spielberg-close-encountersSome interesting nuggets of information about the making of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and what could have been, taken from THE ULTIMATE VISUAL HISTORY:

  • The character of Roy Neary, played by Richard Dreyfuss, was originally named Norman Greenhouse.
  • Spielberg hoped to have Steve McQueen play the part of Greenhouse, but the star turned it down because he did not want to cry on camera. The director also pursued Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, and Jack Nicholson. As the character evolved into an “everyman” type of character, Dreyfuss became the logical choice.
  • In the second draft of the screenplay, there is an active UFO-watcher group known as SPIWGOAH: The Society for the People Interested in What’s Going On Around Here.
  • In a deleted scene, Roy Neary tries to make sense of the shape of a Jell-O mold at a neighborhood block party (between fascination with the looming mountain shape of mashed potatoes, shaving cream, and a pillow).
  • The iconic Devil’s Tower location in Wyoming was originally a fictional location scripted as “Wamsutter Mountain” and Spielberg briefly considered using Monument Valley, but passed on it since he knew that cinematic landscape belonged to legendary director John Ford.
  • Also before the Devil’s Tower location was chosen, Spielberg initially envisioned having the Mothership land in a small town between two fast-food restaurants, but dismissed the idea after production designer Joe Alves mocked up the shot.
  • An Air Force character in an early draft of the script was named Major Benchley after JAWS author Peter Benchley.
  • In order to elicit natural, organic responses of concern and curiosity from little Cary Guffey who played Barry, Spielberg dressed two crew members as a clown and a gorilla.
  • To create the memorable “Five Notes” motif used throughout the film, John Williams wrote several hundred combinations. He found it difficult because, “Seven notes is a melody, and three notes is just for the doorbell ring … five notes is somewhere in between.”

Many people don’t take the time to consider how many ideas are first set on paper before being totally revised, eliminated, morphed, added later, or expanded in the filmmaking process. Where CLOSE ENCOUNTERS is concerned, there are some incredible, alternate possibilities to say the least.

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Spielberg and his alien friends: An interior spread from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND: THE ULTIMATE VISUAL HISTORY

You can read more of my CLOSE ENCOUNTERS musings HERE along with a collection of original, vintage Lobby Cards from the film.

You can also purchase Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Ultimate Visual History and then shop to your heart’s content for other things on Amazon (like Collectible Toys) while contributing a few shekels towards the upkeep of IT CAME FROM…

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Spielberg Sells ‘Poltergeist’ in 1982: ‘It’s Land Jaws for Me’

They’re heeeere… POLTERGEIST debuted in theaters 35 years ago this month, and in celebration of one of the scariest movies ever made, I offer you some insightful 1982 interview footage of the film’s producer (and oft-argued ghost director of the film) Steven Spielberg, as well as a sit-down with the legendary Zelda Rubinstein, who played eccentric medium Tangina Barrons, at the time of the film’s release. MPW-18352.jpeg

POLTERGEIST first got on my radar when I opened up the Sunday paper and saw a massive, double-page spread declaring that the new Spielberg project was “the scariest movie ever made” in massive bold letters. That concept blew me away, and almost deterred me from seeing it. Would it be too scary? Would I get serious nightmares? But I was hooked and ready to accept the challenge: Could it truly be the scariest movie ever? Didn’t THE EXORCIST already own that title? This I gotta see

I ended up being more enthralled by the movie than being genuinely scared. Sure, there were plenty of jump-in-your-seat moments and nail-biter sequences, but I was mostly taken by the otherworldly awe that the film engendered in me. These spirits weren’t just malevolent. They were misunderstood — and looking for retribution. And I saw that the dogged, selfless love of a parent for a child in danger could conquer even the most supernatural of circumstances. There was beauty in this horror that I was presented with. How many horror films these days incorporate those themes so unabashedly and effectively to ultimately transcend the viewing experience? Not many.

Five years ago, the 30th anniversary of POLTERGEIST provided the perfect excuse for me to raid the ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT tape vaults as I often did for exclusive material, and I unearthed these great vintage POLTERGEIST interviews. I put together a cut that I think captures some interesting, unique takes on the genre film that would quickly become an instant classic, yet another phenomenon in the pantheon of Spielberg’s cinematic oeuvre.

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Just four months before the June ’82 release of POLTERGEIST, ET asked Spielberg what he could reveal about the Tobe Hooper-directed film. “It’s real scary,” he replied. “It’s sort of a Land JAWS for me. It’s a movie about ghosts, but it’s not a send-up, it’s not a comedy. It’s really a movie about a haunting in suburbia. The great similarity [to JAWS] is that terror is relentless, and the terror is unseen in both movies [until the end].”

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Although POLTERGEIST was helmed by Hooper (of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE fame), Spielberg’s fingerprints are all over the film, from the cookie-cutter suburban setting that mirrors E.T. the EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL and themes of childhood innocence and imagination to the awe-inspiring soundtrack and impressive ILM special effects.

“POLTERGEIST is a scream, and E.T. is a whisper,” said Spielberg, who was working on post-production for both films at the time of the interview and noted that both projects were battling for limited 70mm summer theater space. “Essentially [POLTERGEIST] is a movie about tightening your stomach muscles and keeping them there for two hours until something gives.”

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POLTERGEIST was initially rated R by the MPAA, then changed to PG after Spielberg challenged the rating. Zelda Rubinstein reflected on the controversy surrounding the film — that it was too violent for children to watch — and told ET, “I feel that maybe children would maybe understand it even better than we adults, because it deals a lot with the mythology surrounding the archetypal childhood fears, the fears of having incidents with your toys … [and] the development of the new myth surrounding the electronic media.”

Watch the POLTERGEIST “flashback” video in the following link, or the embed below:

http://players.brightcove.net/1242911076001/rkLHD3Uv_default/index.html?videoId=ref:title_122484&viewguid=ffddf3c9-dcd4-4814-8129-02151da6ea00

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The Story Behind That Epic ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ Fan Film

Lots of kids are inspired to make their own version of a movie when they’re on a high walking out of a blockbuster on a hot summer day. But Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala and took their obsession much, much further after seeing RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK in 1981. The pair set out to remake the Steven Spielberg classic shot-for-shot — the entire thing — and it took years and years to complete. While making the bargain-basement film almost destroyed their friendship, the impressive project reached cult status and even caught the attention of Mr. Spielberg himself.

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Chris and Eric’s story made it to bookshelves with RAIDERS!: THE STORY OF THE GREATEST FAN FILM EVER MADE, written with Alan Eisenstock, and I got the opportunity to speak with the pair about their epic filmmaking adventure when I was at ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT. “It’s really something to meet your boyhood hero and find that you’ve chosen your heroes well, ” Eric told me about their meeting with Spielberg, describing the Hollywood legend as “warm and paternal” and detailing how they spent 45 minutes talking about “life and movies” with him before he treated them to some never-before-seen Raiders outtakes. “It was a real pinch-me moment.”

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The pair of former school kids from Mississippi first bonded on a school bus over the Marvel Super Special comic book adaptation of RAIDERS 800e0fba961ed55e9e3d8449795df615back in the early ’80s, and immediately began plotting how to meticulously relive the film on camera. “It was really born out of a role-playing fantasy, that I just wanted to play Indiana Jones,” said Chris, who took on the role of Indiana Jones. “It was always our goal from the very beginning to do the entire film.”

Eric took on the directing chores and played bad guy Belloq, while eccentric friend Jayson Lamb was enlisted to run the camera and work on the homemade special effects — some straight out of THE ANARCHIST’S COOKBOOK. Armed with a clunky, problematic Betamax video camera (and later a VHS camera), the film’s script from Walden Books, an illicit sound recording made in a movie theater, 602 individually drawn storyboards (“It took me the entire summer [to make them],” said Eric), wardrobe and props requested as gifts from their parents, specifically Indy’s signature whip and fedora (“Birthdays and Christmases became prop- and costume-acquiring opportunities,” said Eric) — and of course an unlimited imagination — the determined filmmakers coerced curious friends like a modern-day Tom and Huck to help realize their production.

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“Chris was the outgoing, gregarious guy; I was the skinny, geeky kid — total opposites on the surface,” said Eric. “He had the charisma to draw people in. I was sort of the disciplinarian to keep folks there. That was sort of the yin-yang of the friendship. … These differences made it work, but it was also a source of conflict.”

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The exhaustive project made them the best of friends and the worst of enemies, with conflict, parental intrusion, and elemental issues threatening to shut down the production over and over. Battling lens-fogging issues and camera breakdowns due to the Mississippi humidity, the boys set out each summer to lovingly recreate every special moment of RAIDERS, from the giant rolling boulder (made of fiberglass) to the fiery bar fight in Nepal (after almost burning down their basement, “We sort of learned to keep our parents in the dark,” said Eric), to Indy’s incredible truck fight with the Nazis (achieved by towing an engine-less truck that they found abandoned in the mud) and the face-melting grand finale (with swirling ghost effects achieved with the help of a water tank and the high-tech help of the local TV station’s editing equipment).

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“We didn’t really have a budget; we built stuff, found stuff, dug through our parents’ closets and Goodwill, Salvation Army, people throwing things away,” explained Chris, who estimated that the project cost them approximately $5,000 when all was said and done. “Lots of donated time, lots of donated energy, lots of people pitching in.”

Watch the trailer for the documentary about the making of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: THE ADAPTATION: https://youtu.be/C4UYBhDVm9k

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: THE ADAPTATION finally found its way to Spielberg courtesy of filmmaker Eli Roth (who got ahold of ragged copy from a friend) and, after watching it not once but twice, the legendary director sent both Chris and Eric personalized letters, calling their labor of love “hugely imaginative” and “very loving and detailed.” He said of their film, “To this day … still the best piece of flattery George [Lucas] and I have ever received.” Chris says that Spielberg told them that their film even “inspired” him, and added of their personal encounter with him, “He was warm and gracious and he’s continued to be supportive, year after year, of our movie.”

Now dads with their own families, Chris and Eric reunited to form their own production company called Rolling Boulder Films, naturally, writing scripts, optioning projects and producing films. And they finally got to film that one key scene that was missing from their production: The Flying Wing fist fight. VICE documented the duo’s final return to their lifelong project to film that spectacular scene, and you can watch the highlights HERE: https://youtu.be/3gV6QMj0fvQ

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‘Stranger Things 2’: The Flick Flack TV Review

Flick Flack TV ReviewWHAT’S THE DEAL: All your favorite characters from the Netflix sleeper series STRANGER THINGS are back for more supernatural adventures in the Upside Down to binge-watch — this time with a bonus ninth episode — courtesy of super ‘80s movie fanatics The Duffer Brothers.

**I keep the spoilers mild, but steer clear if you want to remain completely spoiler-free!**

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WHY SEE IT: A direct continuation of the wild, mysterious events introduced in the first season, season two of STRANGER THINGS wisely chooses to focus on the residents of Hawkins, IN and how they are coping with the normalcy of daily life while dealing with the post-traumatic stress of their life-changing events. At the same time, the story introduces a new threat — the Lovecraftian, Cthulhu-like Shadow Monster — and begins to world-build as Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) tracks down her roots and connects with a fellow patient from the secret government lab in Hawkins.

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This time around, the Duffer Brothers draw inspiration from such ‘70s and ‘80s genre films as JAWS, ALIENS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, THE EXORCIST, and GREMLINS, and they expand their troupe by introducing intriguing new players to the mix (Sean Astin as groaner boyfriend Bob, Paul Reiser’s questionable Dr. Owens, Sadie Sink’s tomboy “Mad” Max, and Max’s unpredictable step-brother Billy, played by Dacre Montgomery). They also rearrange the dynamics of who spends extended screen time together with some unlikely pairings, such as Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) teaming up with Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), and Eleven sharing living space with Sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour). It’s also nice to see Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) get more storyline attention to wrestle with his demons (bowl cut and all) and communicate with his mom, Joyce (an excellent Winona Ryder), directly rather than through phone calls and blinking Christmas lights.

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Other than its clever ‘80s period details, a whip-smart soundtrack, and obvious and insider nods to pop-culture inspirations, the real virtue of STRANGER THINGS is that it carves out generous moments for its characters to breathe, develop, connect, and display thoughtful dimensionality. I loved reuniting with every key character in the first episode of the new season, watching them exist in their everyday lives without disruption, finding happiness in simple pleasures like hanging out at the video arcade, getting excited about new prospects with the opposite sex, and preparing for Halloween — so much so that I was worried about everyone’s safety, armed with the knowledge that things were about to get very freaky very soon.

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THE TV FLICK FLACK: My biggest problem with the new season of STRANGER THINGS has to do with the abundance of CGI antagonists — namely the Demodogs. Taking their cue from the ALIEN Xenomorph’s evolutionary stages, the Duffer Brothers are going for an ALIENS vibe here by raising the stakes with the number of monsters beyond a solo Demogorgon, but the kinetic appreciation for me was diminished because I couldn’t get over the distraction that our heroes were simply battling pixels. I always respond much more strongly to practical effects that are more tangible onscreen for character interactions, and so that obvious CGI element of the story took my overall appreciation of the proceedings down a notch, even though I know it’s a given in this day and age.

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Also, what I loved about the second season of STRANGER THINGS is also ironically what I didn’t like about it to a certain extent. At the end of the first season, I had many questions about the cryptic world that was created and was eager for answers. But I was also secretly hoping for a whole new supernatural direction with a whole new set of stakes. That’s essentially what the Duffer Brothers deliver with the Dark Monster in a direct continuation of the storyline, which I very much appreciated. Still, I felt a bit confined to the circumstances set up in Hawkins. That’s why when Eleven ventures out to the big city to find her fellow lab-rat sister Eight (played by Linnea Berthelsen), the story takes an invigorating turn that could have benefited from another full episode. Part of me really wants this show to shake things up with a brand-new threat from a completely different source, and perhaps that’s what we’ll get come season three.

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NOTABLE NOTES: From Steven Spielberg and Stephen King to John Carpenter and other ‘80s storyteller influences, the Duffer Brothers have not been shy about listing their movie muses. For the second season of STRANGER THINGS, they turned to blockbuster sequels and, specifically, James Cameron, as their guide. Matt Duffer told EW.com, “I know movie sequels get a lot of shit, but the ones we look up to aspire to pivot and do something different. There’s TEMPLE OF DOOM, ALIENS, TERMINATOR 2. I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”

MORE INFO: https://www.netflix.com/title/80057281

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Sean Young on ‘Blade Runner,’ Career Bumps

With the surprise return of Sean Young’s Rachael in BLADE RUNNER 2049, I thought it was time to revisit my August 2013 ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT interview with the enthusiastic and candid actor, who was promoting her new indie horror film JUG FACE.

She was more than happy to wax nostalgic about BLADE RUNNER, DUNE, her bad luck detour from Tim Burton’s BATMAN, working with the likes of Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott, and ire over how she has been treated by Hollywood over the decades. It’s a compelling interview, if you ask me. Give it a read:

In the early ’80s, Sean Young’s big-screen career rise was meteoric, jumping from a bit role opposite Bill Murray in the army comedy Stripes to starring with Harrison Ford in the sci-fi classic Blade Runner — and then raising pulses with a steamy back-seat sex scene with Kevin Costner in a limo in No Way Out. But after a career lull in the ’90s and various off-screen antics that turned her into a tabloid target, Young is back on the big screen and ready to show that she’s here to stay in the haunting backwoods supernatural drama Jug Face.

The story of a pregnant teen (Lauren Ashley Carter) looking to escape her small town because she fears she’ll be sacrificed to a mysterious pit that kills in exchange for keeping the community safe, Jug Face casts Young as Loriss, the girl’s mother who is intent on keeping her a virgin so that her naughty behavior doesn’t upset the balance.

“I don’t ever watch any horror pictures, but I’m a fan of this picture,” the 53-year-old Young tells ETonline. “It’s almost like The Village by M. Night Shyamalan. But it’s a lot less like a horror picture in a sense than some horror pictures, because [the horror here is] implied a lot of time.” Loriss pretty much has her own catch phrase – “the pit wants what it wants” – and Young points out that although her character is definitely not the most pleasant or glamorous, “I like playing characters that nobody would suspect me to play, and I think I’m pretty versatile that way.” She adds, “I did tell [director Chad Crawford Kinkle] that I wasn’t thrilled with the fact that the makeup people made me look so old and ugly.”

While keeping busy in a number of indie films over the years, Young decided to jump-start her career in the last decade with the reality TV route, appearing onCelebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, Skating with the Stars, and even appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman to declare her willingness to work, going so far as to spoof her “crazy Catwoman” persona (she was meant to star in 1989’s Batman as Vicki Vale until a broken arm derailed her opportunity; Kim Basinger ended up with the role and Young later made headlines when she tried to crash director Tim Burton’s office to audition as Catwoman in full regalia for 1992’s Batman Returns).

“I think the Baby Boomers are still holding something against me, and I don’t think it’s fair, but that’s what it is,” confesses Young. “I just rubbed them the wrong way at the wrong time in my career, and obviously I didn’t mean to, but then again I don’t suffer fools real easy either. I guess in a sense, they might have thought the David Letterman interview was me having hubris, you know? But I think it was just me saying, ‘Hey, I want to work, you know? C’mon! Lighten up!” … And so the Generation X, I think they in a sense are a generation that’s very inclusive, whereas I think the Baby Boomers are a generation that’s very exclusive. And so people who really want to work together and are willing to make those sacrifices, I think those are people who are always going to appreciate me.”

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Looking back on her time filming Blade Runner, in which Young plays Rachael, the beautiful Replicant who does not realize she is a robot, she recalls, “I thought we were doing something pretty unusual. I wasn’t really anything more than a newcomer at that time, so I had a lot of learning I was doing, so I didn’t know necessarily how unusual what we were doing was, but I did know it was a big deal because just the sets alone were like, ‘Holy cow!’ … It’s not likely you’ll ever see a movie of that scale again, unless you have somebody who just wants to spend their money on making movies and not worrying about the money, and that’s pretty much nobody. All the people that might have that kind of money, I don’t think they’re interested in the art of it, you know?”

seanyoung2.jpgYoung’s co-star Ford was returning to the sci-fi genre after Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark made him an international superstar. Asked whether he had his guard up or was very approachable while making the movie, she reminisces, “Harry’s like a guy’s guy. I think he has his guard up when it suits him, and at that time anyway he would be one of the guys with the drivers. … Harry was a big, tall, strong-guy manly man, and when he didn’t like something you knew it, and if he did like it you knew that as well. He had a great sense of humor, and he’d been in the business for quite a long time by then. He started in his twenties and he was 42 when we made [Blade Runner]. He’s a professional, he knows his stuff.”

She adds, “I never had the opportunity to become warm and fuzzy with Harry on the movie — I do remember when I first met him, I went into his trailer and there was an IV that had a little bag hanging down from it that Steven Spielberg had sent over as a joke.”

Of course, director Ridley Scott has announced that he’s now working on a new Blade Runner movie, and Young says, “I’d love to do that, and I’ve left several messages at his office, but I don’t know – everybody’s got their opinion.”

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She adds of Scott’s controversial return to Alien territory with Prometheus, “I am going to say this on the record: Why in the hell does Ridley Scott have Charlize Theron in that part instead of me? … It’s like she was bored out of her mind, you can see it, and it’s like oh my god! That would have been really good for me, right? It would have been a nod to people who like Blade Runner, it would have been like, ‘See, I’m using Sean again,’ right? Nah.”

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Moving on to David Lynch’s 1984 adaption Dune, in which Young played the Fremen love interest Chani opposite Kyle MachLachlan, Patrick Stewart and Sting, Young recalls that the deserts and Mexico City location were definitely a challenge: “It’s poor, it’s dirty and it’s rough, but it was a very unique experience, and we all stayed in the Zona Rosa Hotel there and it was just fantastic, and I think we were there for four months,” she says. “There were challenging aspects of course, like that Stillsuit — we would die in that thing — it was in the summer. Especially if you played a Fremen, every time they rolled the camera they would get a fan and throw dirt in your face. You would get home at night and it would take you an hour just to clean out your nose and ears. … It was very gross work. But what was great was that we would go out to eat after taking hours to clean up — we were all so exhausted that we would go out to eat and drink, you know, and that’s pretty much what everyone would do for four months. It was great. … My little YouTube [home movies] give you a feeling of what we were really doing.”

Reflecting on the various films on her resume, Young singles out the 1989 American remake of the French film Cousins, co-starring Ted Danson, William Petersen and Isabella Rossellini, as her personal favorite.

“It was very heart-warming picture, and I think the reason that it’s my favorite is because everybody had the best time making that movie in Vancouver,” she says. “Because I started at an early age when I was 18 or 19, what’s meaningful to me on a picture is … how well we honor each other. I really like it when actors treat each other well and with respect, and when directors treat me well. … In show business the highs are high and the lows are low, and I think that it’s been like that since the very beginning. … You can also apply that to life too — when you’re treated well it works and you enjoy going to work, and when you’re not, it’s not as fun. It’s not brain surgery or rocket science.”

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Better Than Goofy Golf: Vintage ‘Close Encounters’ Lobby Cards

“They can fly rings around the moon, but were years ahead of ’em on the highway…”

November 16 marks the 40th anniversary of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, and I’m getting very excited that Steven Spielberg’s Sci-Fi masterpiece will once again get the attention it deserves.

Beginning September 1, the film will get a one-week release in theaters nationwide, using a remastered Director’s Cut in 4K for U.S. and Canadian theaters. The film will also screen at the Venice Film Festival in the “Venezia Classici” section. Watch the trailer for the 4K anniversary screening here:

By no means a small and forgotten film, one still can’t ignore the fact that Spielberg’s meditation on our first contact with beings from another world has gotten a lot less attention and conversation in the last decade or so. It’s simply not on the younger generation’s radar, the most obvious reason being that CLOSE ENCOUNTERS is not a franchise. There have not been any sequels, prequels, remakes, or spinoffs. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS remains undiluted** and I am grateful for it. It is one of my all-time favorites.

Tim-Jordan-Close-Encounters-of-The-Third-Kind-Poster-2015**Undiluted for the most part. The film’s SPECIAL EDITION release in 1980 added seven minutes of bonus footage that included a look inside the Alien Mother Ship, while trimming and deleting other scenes. Spielberg had always wanted to deliver a more polished film despite pressure from Columbia Pictures to deliver six months early, and got the chance to make a director’s cut after the film became a huge hit — with the caveat that he show the inside of the Mother Ship as a marketing hook. Still, he ultimately regretted showing the interior.

Close-Encounters-of-the-Third-Kind-Special-Edition.jpgI always loved the bonus footage of seeing the landlocked S.S. Cotopaxi boat discovery in the Gobi desert, but I personally think the original cut of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS remains superior by leaving the ending to your imagination. Spielberg returned to the film one more time to cut it again as the COLLECTOR’S EDITION, and in that one he kept elements of the 1980 SPECIAL EDITION, but wisely excised the climactic Mother Ship interior coda.

In anticipation of the return of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND on the big screen, here are some cool vintage Lobby Cards from both the original release and THE SPECIAL EDITION:

 

A little background info on lobby cards I like to regularly share for context: Back in the days before the Internet, movie lobby cards were a powerful tool used by CloseEncounters_108PyxurzHollywood studios to lure audiences into the darkened theater. They were the last line of enticement — and sometimes the first — alongside carpet-bombing consumers with coming attractions, movie posters, marquees, publicity stunts, movie program books, and newspaper advertisements for their newest big-screen sensation. With no entertainment websites or blogs available to tease audiences with stills from their films, lobby cards served that purpose for the studio publicity machine. These days, movie theater lobbies have eschewed the traditional lobby card for posters, standees, trailers on repeat, experiential activations and more.

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Then read more Steven Spielberg-related articles, see more of my ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT-related tales and interviews,  Summer Music Recommendations, movie reviews, or there’s plenty of STAR WARS musingsFamous Monsters funcool vintage movie lobby cards, etc.

Will We Ever Get That ‘Goonies’ Sequel?

"Hey, you guys!" Will we ever get that much-talked about, long-awaited sequel to THE GOONIES? Does anyone still care?

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There has been much buzz over the years about a sequel to (or a reboot of) the beloved 1985 adventure that turned "Chunk" and "Sloth" into household heroes. A couple years ago, GOONIES director Richard Donner hinted that there was real momentum on the project after three decades of waiting around, and several of the original cast members, including Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, and Sean Astin, have at one time or another expressed an interest in returning.

Warner Bros.

I spoke with Astin not too long ago about the possibility of another go-around with the legendary pirate One-Eyed Willy, and he told me earnestly, yet with a bit of tongue in cheek, "It is a mortal lock – I would bet my children on it – that there will be a sequel. It may not be in my lifetime, but there will be a sequel because the public wants it so much and Steven [Spielberg], who's really the decision maker, wants it really badly."

Astin, Brolin, and Feldman were among the child stars searching for the legendary treasure of One-Eyed Willie in order to save their families' homes from foreclosure in the film written by Christopher Columbus, based on a story by Spielberg. Martha Plimpton, Kerri Green, Jeff Cohen, and INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM'sShort Round Ke Huy Quan rounded out the kiddie cast for the summer movie release.

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"Whether they want the sequel to be about the Goonies' kids, whether we're too old for it, it doesn't matter," continued Astin. "What matters is that [Spielberg and Donner] get to try and capture the magic again, because they love it and the public wants it. The fact that they haven't done it yet, I think, is a testament to them, because they haven't found the magic yet."

steven-spielberg-trying-to-scare-richard-donner-as-hes-talking-to-jeff-cohen-and-jonathan-ke-quan-on-the-set-of-the-goonies

Subsequent to that statement, Feldman declared in an interview with MovieWeb that he didn't think the film would be happening simply based on Donner's age. Donner has been the true driving force behind a new GOONIES movie happening at all, but the veteran director of THE OMEN, SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE, the LETHAL WEAPON franchise, and so many other fan favorites is no spring chicken. He's a spry 87 years old, and making a major motion picture at that age as a director may be too much of a burden at this stage in the game. He may just not be interested in taking it on in that capacity. Producing, however, is another matter that may be more manageable. And according to a Brolin, Spielberg does have a sequel script already written, sitting in a secret drawer somewhere.

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But Warner Bros. has made no official announcements, and while there is much hope and optimism among fans and the stars/filmmakers alike for another GOONIES movie, it just doesn't seem to be happening.

In a recent Reddit AMA, Plimpton let fans down gently by declaring, "I really wouldn't expect it. It's been teased for decades and I don't think it's going to happen. At least, as far as I know. I think Dick Donner, who is a brilliantly funny man, likes to torture us all with the prospect. I believe it's his revenge for having been tortured by all of us for six months in 1984."

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An interesting side note: I spoke with legendary movie poster artist Drew Struzan recently at a show of his Amblin work at Creature Features in Burbank, CA, and he brought to my attention that he was commissioned to do seven variations of his infamous GOONIES poster at the request of Steven Spielberg — each featuring one of the kid stars of the movie at the top — so they could each get their moment in the spotlight on the newspaper advertisements. Now that's a pretty cool thing to do!

(thanks to Posterwire for the variant art layout).

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Why William Friedkin’s ‘Sorcerer’ was a ‘Ballbreaker’

Oscar-winning director William Friedkin’s SORCERER hit theaters 40 years ago this summer in the wake of the STAR WARS juggernaut, and so the timing could not have been worse for this thrilling, underrated jungle adventure that I have grown to love.

sorcerer-os-croppedA reworking of the 1953 French film THE WAGES OF FEAR based on Georges Arnaud’s novel LE SALAIRE DE LA PEUR, Friedkin’s SORCERER reunited the controversial EXORCIST director with his amiable THE FRENCH CONNECTION star Roy Scheider, himself white-hot off his starring turn in JAWS and a high-profile cameo in MARATHON MAN opposite Dustin Hoffman. The minimal cast was rounded out by Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, and Amidou as a quartet of criminals from disparate backgrounds who team up to transport highly volatile nitroglycerin across 200 miles of the treacherous South American jungle for an American oil company.

 

53555669158726f16b740100_william-friedkin-sorcerer.jpgBecause of a seismic shift in audience appetites, SORCERER debuted in the summer of ’77 to mixed reviews and disappointing box office. In terms of mass appeal, the damage to SORCERER and other serious dramas and genres was inestimable as films like Friedkin’s were steamrolled by George Lucas’ rollicking Sci-Fi fantasy, which (along with Steven Spielberg’s JAWS) changed the rules of Hollywood and influenced the general public’s palate for big-screen entertainment.

 

I spoke with Friedkin when SORCERER was remastered for its Blu-ray debut, and the veteran filmmaker told me of the film’s initial reception, “It is what it is, and there’s no reason to question that or to fight that. Audiences get the films they want, and they go to them in vast, vast numbers, and in the old competition between fantasy and reality, fantasy wins hands down, because people do want to be entertained and not challenged.”

2012-blog-friedkin1.jpgIt took a full four years for Friedkin to follow-up his one-two punch delivery of THE FRENCH CONNECTION in 1971 and THE EXORCIST in 1973. Pressed to come up with the ideal follow-up to the indelible films that gave him Academy Award recognition, he kept returning to the idea of making his own adaptation of Arnaud’s 1950 novel and the 1953 film. “I was obsessed with [SORCERER] and driven to make it,” he said of the epic undertaking that was filmed in the Dominican Republic, Paris, Jerusalem, New Jersey, and Veracruz, Mexico.

salaire de la peur, Le (1953).jpg“I didn’t do it as a remake of WAGES OF FEAR, I did it as a new version,” he said of the film that takes place on multiple continents. “These characters were four strangers marooned in a desperate situation, hiding out from retribution, who had to either cooperate or die — and that seems to be the world’s condition today. All of these countries are strangers who don’t like each other. We don’t have the same philosophies. … But if we don’t all cooperate — like if the countries in the Middle East don’t make peace with Israel, they’ll all be destroyed — it’s mutually assured destruction, and that’s what SORCERER and WAGES OF FEAR are about.”

sorcerr77hd_04.jpgA straightforward thriller with no supernatural undertones, the film’s title was inspired by a Miles Davis album, and a knowing nod to THE EXORCIST. Interestingly enough, SORCERER’s working title was actually BALLBREAKER — and making the film turned out to be just that given the sprawling production locations, challenging resources, on-set conflicts, and some unrelenting weather conditions.

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Though he did not set out to directly remake WAGES, Friedkin went to lengths to explain to me why he thinks “remake” is not such a bad word in Hollywood: “There’s a wonderful production on Broadway … of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF starring Tracy Letts. It’s a big smash hit, and not because it’s a remake — it’s another version. Anytime someone does a production of HAMLET it’s not a remake, it’s a new interpretation with different actors. … So I thought that WAGES OF FEAR could be reinterpreted for a modern audience because it dealt with certain truths.”

In today’s remake/reboot-obsessed Hollywood, I wondered what Friedkin would think of a remake of his own take on WAGES, and if he thought the film’s incredibly intense, signature swaying bridge stunt (which is featured on the film’s promotional posters) could ever be recreated in the same way again. “It would be done all CGI [today],” replied Friedkin matter-of-factly. “I had a great production designer named John Box who worked for [director] David Lean. … We came up together with a way of engineering that bridge so that it was safe, that it looked lethal, but was actually very safely constructed so there were no accidents — knock wood. But any time you attempt something like that, there’s always the unexpected.” Sorcerer-Truck-Bridge-1977.jpgExpanding on his take on remakes, Friedkin explained, “I know that films beget other films. I started out learning from other films. I never went to film school. I certainly borrowed ideas from them. I mean, I didn’t steal from them, but I was influenced by them, or they pushed certain buttons. … On the other hand, I think that there is a paucity of ideas today, and so [Hollywood goes] back to what worked before and, generally, they’re right — it works again because audiences love what’s familiar. They’re much less tolerant of something new. They’ll give a lot more space to something that’s familiar [compared] to something that challenges their expectations.”

 

Sorcerer-featured-1024x675SORCERER is a worthy film that stands the test of time four decades after it was released. Taut and crackling with tension with limited dialogue, it’s got a genuine sense of gritty reality in that inimitable ’70s filmmaking style. Friedkin’s overlooked masterpiece is a true nail-biter, and one can see simply by what’s onscreen why the working title was BALLBREAKER. They simply don’t make ’em like they used to…

 

 

Enjoy these SORCERER lobby cards, foreign and domestic:

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More Lobby Cards to ogle:

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Take a Bite Out of These Vintage ‘Jaws’ Lobby Cards

The first JAWS movie I ever saw was JAWS 2 in 1978, and it was in a movie theater on none other than Martha’s Vineyard, where Steven Spielberg’s original 1975 masterpiece was filmed as well as its first follow-up. 87560619.jpgNeedless to say, I stopped swimming for the rest of that week before we headed home to New York — and dry land.

It wasn’t until a few years later, when the original JAWS made the rounds with a revival release, that I finally saw JAWS for the first time and on a big screen. I realized then how far superior the first film was compared to the second. But, despite being a lackluster sequel, JAWS 2 still holds a special place in my heart.

I wish I could say the same for JAWS 3-D and JAWS: THE REVENGE, but hey, who are we kidding? Those movies were absolutely terrible. Right? In retrospect, however, they’re still fun to watch, seeing as Universal desperately tried to keep the original film’s storyline running and consistent by using characters from the Brody family.Jaws 03Since summer has officially kicked off, my obsession with lobby cards leads me to post a group of original JAWS cards from 1975, plus a handful from the sequels for good measure:

A little background info on lobby cards I like to regularly share for context: Back in the days before the Internet, movie lobby cards were a powerful tool used by Hollywood studios to lure audiences into the darkened theater. They were the last line of enticement — and sometimes the first — alongside carpet-bombing consumers with coming attractions, movie posters, marquees, publicity stunts, movie program books, and newspaper advertisements for their newest big-screen sensation. With no entertainment websites or blogs available to tease audiences with stills from their films, lobby cards served that purpose for the studio publicity machine. These days, movie theater lobbies have eschewed the traditional lobby card for posters, standees, trailers on repeat, experiential activations and more.

More Lobby Cards to ogle:

More JAWS and Steven Spielberg stories: 

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When ‘Jaws’ Changed the Game

Forty-two years ago, JAWS emerged from the depths and made movie history. Are you still afraid to go into the water? You have Steven Spielberg to thank for that.

chrissie-shark-attack.jpgSpielberg’s man vs. shark blockbuster debuted in theaters on June 20, just in time to kick off the swimming season, and audiences in the summer of ’75 would become utterly consumed by the film. With JAWS, the Hollywood blockbuster was truly born, and it came of age with the release of STAR WARS just two years later. That one-two punch would change the rules of how major Hollywood movies are made, marketed and released, and studios would forever after be swinging for the fences on opening weekend. The success of JAWS signaled to studios that summer was the official magic season to open a popcorn flick wide (and even expand its distribution) with the help of heavy TV-commercial saturation strategies.2015919231_8.jpg

Much has been written about the Spielberg film, based on the bestselling novel by Peter Benchley. Co-screenwriter Carl Gottlieb’s account of the production process, THE JAWS LOG, remains the best insider source in my opinion (and it’s been nicely expanded since the first printing). 43168Full of great anecdotes from the trenches, it expertly captures the drama and chaos of what went down when the mechanical shark broke down; how a still wet-behind-the-ears twentysomething director triumphed over creative differences, stormy weather, self-doubt, a runaway budget, studio pressure — and still managed to deliver a cinematic triumph.

After its release, JAWS would go on to recoup its budget in just three weeks. It beat THE GODFATHER to gross more than $120 million (in 1975 dollars!) domestically in its first run, the first U.S. film to smash the $100 million ceiling. And it won three Oscars (Best Film Editing, Best Sound, and Best Score) alongside a nomination for Best Picture (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST claimed the top prize that year).

wpid-photo-feb-3-2014-953-pmWhen JAWS resurfaced a few years ago with an all-new, restored edition on Blu-ray, I had the opportunity to speak with several authorities on the film — on the Universal Studios lot in Burbank, CA, at the classic JAWS attraction, no less — about the impact of the film on pop culture, its influence, and its enduring nature.

 

IMG_00358“I saw JAWS in a theater in 1975; I was six years old and it scared me, it thrilled me, and it changed the course of my life,” said J. Michael Roddy, producer of THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING, a lovingly made, in-depth JAWS documentary included on the Blu-ray. THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING dives into the making of the Universal film and how it influenced a generation of filmmakers. Enthusiastic about seeing his favorite film fully restored in HD, he commented, “I urge everyone to look at the film again because you’d be surprised what your imagination can do for you.”

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Carl Gottlieb, JAWS co-writer and actor

Gottlieb, who co-wrote JAWS with Benchley and also starred in the film as Meadows, told me, “I had spent three months of my life living, eating, breathing, sleeping, dreaming JAWS.” When it came to streamlining Benchley’s story for the big screen, he revealed that he had to drop a romantic subplot between Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) and Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) – as well as take a major bite out of his own character’s screen time. “Once we met the characters, the actors playing the parts were so agreeable and pleasant and nice that you couldn’t conceive of them cheating on the police chief (played by Roy Scheider); so that whole subplot had to go, and when it did, the story became really pure,” he explained. He added, “We were so pressured to shoot the story we had that there wasn’t a lot that was left on the cutting room floor, except for my part as Meadows. I had the very painful experience for an actor of writing myself out of the script, and that hurt.”

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Joe Alves, JAWS production designer (and JAWS 3D director)

Joe Alves, the film’s production designer who went on to work on JAWS 2 and direct JAWS 3D, told me that the infamous technical problems surrounding the film’s mechanical shark “were certainly not exaggerated,” but he wanted to clarify that he was tasked to build a working prop that required two years to fabricate — but was only given five months to do it in order to beat an actor’s strike. C4AP6k7WAAA2ffH“We were shooting an early movie back East in May and putting people in ice cold water; we were shooting on an island so everything had to be trucked in from a ferry or flown in, so nothing was that convenient; you had the very wealthy people that had summer homes that weren’t too happy to have us there,” explained Alves. “So those were the problems that we had. You know — shark, people, politics, etc.”

 

CoMuovIVIAAUZJw.jpg-largeBut with frustrating mechanical difficulties came creative inspiration, and Alves said, “When I designed the boat [in the film], I had these yellow barrels — I painted them yellow so they would be contrasted to the blue ocean — so when the shark wasn’t ready yet, the barrels substituted for the shark. When the yellow barrel popped up, and John Williams’ music was there, it worked.”

jaws barrel 3.jpgIf JAWS were made today, there is no doubt that the shark would be CGI rather than mechanical. The proof is onscreen in such recent films as THE SHALLOWS with Blake Lively and this summer’s 47 METERS DOWN with Mandy Moore, and the general consensus is that of disappointment where the sharks are concerned. Still, practically nothing is sacred these days in the remake-rabid world of contemporary Hollywood. Is JAWS exempt from today’s reboot frenzy? I asked Roddy what he thought.

 

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J. Michael Roddy, producer of THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING

“I would dare any filmmaker to try to remake JAWS; I think that’s one that’s completely off limits,” he responded. “If JAWS were remade today, I’m sure it would be CGI. It would do a lot of things and it would look great, but I think you would lose what JAWS was ultimately about, which is man versus nature: You have three men who are very different who have to band together and get over their differences to defeat nature. That’s its core. If you lose sight of that, it wouldn’t have the power or emotion that the original film does.” 12_3-1Roddy is completely right: Story comes first before spectacle. If audiences don’t buy the stakes and believe the drama, it doesn’t matter how great the special effects are. We see the stumbles time and time again, and JAWS remains the gold standard in terms of solid character storytelling that goes from intimate to epic.

 

jaws2.jpgOf course, when any film becomes a bonafide phenomenon, merchandising appears almost everywhere, from goofy games to iron-on apparel. In 1975, JAWS also launched an armada of parodies, from New Yorker cartoons and MAD magazine satires to music spoofs. The iconic JAWS theme alone has appeared in dozens of other films and TV shows as ripoff and parody. Everyone knows what’s coming when that dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum starts playing, even if you haven’t actually seen JAWS.

tumblr_n7agmoENI41sqf5tdo1_1280.jpgMy favorite offshoot of this mania was the hit single MR. JAWS by Dickie Goodman. A music producer, Goodman was quick to jump on the JAWS bandwagon and assembled his novelty song for distribution just weeks after JAWS became the talk of the town, out by September of ’75. MR. JAWS is a smirk-inducing tale of a reporter who interviews the infamous title character (along with the film’s main characters) with answers provided by several of the year’s top hits — including WHY CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS by War, THE HUSTLE by Van McCoy, LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER by Captain & Tennille, and RHINESTONE COWBOY by Glen Campbell. MR. JAWS peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard charts, and it’s a real time capsule — not only of the JAWS phenomenon, but of the various hit tunes of 1975. Good times…

Listen to it here:

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And why not try these Steven Spielberg stories and interviews on IT CAME FROM… or go the STAR WARS route, as there’s plenty of cool material written about that little film.

 

Guilty Pleasure Picks: Humans vs. Dinos!

My five-year-old son loves dinosaurs, prehistoric creatures, Godzilla, Mothra, King Kong, and Ray Harryhausen movies. He’s a real chip off the ol’ block. So it was a bit of a disappointment when I had to explain to him that dinos and humans never actually walked the earth at the same time; they meet and clash only in the movies. Luckily, there are plenty of those movies that capitalize on this fun concept, prompting me to assemble a chronological list of my favorite guilty-pleasure dinos vs. humans flicks and TV shows.

KING_KONG_lc_r46_TREX.jpgKING KONG (1933)
There’s something about the original KONG that gets my Monster Kid endorphins running every time I see it. The story of a prehistoric world on the mysterious Skull Island, populated by giant reptiles and a massive love-struck ape, towers above the rest. Willis O’Brien’s animated creatures in the original 1933 version inspired Ray Harryhausen to greatness, and Kong’s three-minute battle with a T-rex to protect Fay Wray remains surprisingly visceral, brutal, and intense. Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake ups the ante with oversized creepy crawlies and a heart-stopping, high-wire battle royale between Kong and a pair of T-Rexes that wasn’t for everyone, but enthralled me nonetheless. (The 1976 KING KONG features a fun battle between Kong and a giant snake, but since there are no dinos in that version, it’s not a qualifier).

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THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953)
This Sci-Fi classic predates GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS! by a year, introducing the concept that a rampaging prehistoric creature could be awakened by an atomic blast. Stop-motion animation legend Ray Harryhausen brings the thawed-out, fictional four-legged “Rhedosaurus” to life with a location-stomping menu that includes Times Square, Wall Street and the famed Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster. It remains a favorite from my own childhood.

022-journey-to-the-center-of-the-earth-theredlist.jpgJOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1959)
This one always felt so real to me. James Mason leads a brave expedition into the depths of the earth in this Jules Verne classic. That moment when our heroes are cornered by a pack of hungry dimetrodons (brought to life by way of live lizards with spiny sails glued to their backs) at the shore of an underground ocean is a true highlight. I also love how their escape to the surface is almost thwarted by a giant, lethargic, blood-red lizard. There have been several takes on this tale — Brendan Fraser ran away from CGI dinos in that forgettable 2008 3D version — but the ’50s original is the far superior entry in my opinion.

tumblr_n0hj24VZZp1qkcj94o1_1280.jpgDINOSAURUS! (1960)
I stumbled onto this dopey flick as a kid one afternoon and it sticks firmly in my memory as a much better movie than I know it really is. Still, all the ingredients I needed are in there: Two frozen dinos (and a caveman!) discovered by a Caribbean construction crew come to life thanks to a lucky bolt of lightning; havoc and hilarity ensue as the T-Rex and brontosaurus stomp around the island. Directed by THE BLOB helmer Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr., I was sure there would be a sequel when the last frame of the film said “The End” and then formed a question mark. Alas, no dice.

C06n9sGWQAATB8P.jpgONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966)
After seeing this cavemen vs. dinos saga at a young age it took me years to shake the fact that they never actually shared the same time period. The ’40s version of the film with humans at the low end of the food chain used real-life lizards for dinosaurs, like in JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, but it was the 1966 update with Raquel Welch in a fur bikini that made me want to protect my cave-mate from hungry dinos (and a giant sea turtle), courtesy of Mr. Harryhausen.

valley_of_gwangi_poster_02-1024x718THE VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969)
Yee-haw! It’s cowboys vs. dinosaurs in this reworking of the KING KONG concept in which a rodeo circus discovers and captures a prehistoric predator for fun and profit. Once again, Ray Harryhausen’s amazing stop-motion creatures outshine the actors (including ultra-cool James Franciscus of BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES fame) as Gwangi takes on a circus elephant, smaller dinos, lassos — and unlucky spectators.

elenco.jpgLAND OF THE LOST (1974)
“Marshall, Will and Holly, on a routine expedition…” From furry Cha-Ka, wise Enik and the creepy, slow-moving Sleestak to dino co-stars Dopey, Grumpy, and Big Alice — plus those mysterious Pylon portals — Sid and Marty Krofft’s Saturday morning live-action spectacle had it all for the under-10 crowd, and made the most of its dime-store budget with creative use of chintzy blue-screen effects and GILLIGAN’S ISLAND-like jungle sets. But its most important ingredient was imagination. That’s why it endures in the hearts of so many ’70s kids. Special shout-out to Hanna-Barbera’s animated VALLEY OF THE DINOSAURS, which was my mainstay humans vs. dinos diet until the LAND OF THE LOST programming conflict made me switch. No such thing as a DVR or VHS recorder in my house back then!

land-that-time-forgot-1974-001-poster.jpgTHE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1975)
Based on the 1918 Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, WWI Brits and German make unlikely allies when they stumble onto the lost land of Caprona, populated by feisty dinos and grunting cavemen. The terrible lizards are seriously low-rent rubber puppets in this movie, which only increases the camp value of this self-serious flick and makes it the perfect fodder for MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. The rugged Doug McClure returns for THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT in ’77 to continue the corny action.

197.jpgAT THE EARTH’S CORE (1976)
An Edgar Rice Burroughs tale once again combined with everyman action star Doug McClure with the added bonus of a bumbling Peter Cushing proved an irresistible combination when it came to cheesy dinosaur movies in the ’70s. Our intrepid Victorian explorers burrow to the center of the earth in a giant drill, only to battle flying, fire-breathing rubber dinos, razor-backed creatures, pig-faced slavedrivers and more. Sexy slave girl Caroline Munro is the cherry on top of this campy distraction, also perfect fodder for MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. THE LAST DINOSAUR, out a year later in 1977, also used the “drill to a secret dino lost world” concept and was a big hit for me as a kid.

L_Homme_des_cavernes.jpgCAVEMAN (1981)
Taking place in One Zillion B.C., this goofy cavemen vs. dinos comedy starring Ringo Starr, his Bond girl bride-to-be Barbara Bach, Dennis Quaid, Shelley Long, and NFL defensive end John Matuszak features some cute stop-motion dinos with buggy eyes who steal half the laughs. Other than the fun, cartoonish dinos, the most memorable scene for me from this stone-aged misfire — which does not age well at all — is when that giant mosquito lands on Quaid’s face, calling for it to be epically squashed.

1LS3h.jpgJURASSIC PARK (1993)
A real cinematic corner had been turned in the early ’90s when Steven Spielberg redefined the dinos vs. humans template with groundbreaking, almost seamless CGI and animatronic effects. Dinosaurs finally looked real and were truly menacing. Other than the cunning, killer velociraptors, the bravura sequence in which we see the T-Rex in his full glory smashing the kids in an auto-drive SUV, then eating the lawyer in the outhouse, is one of the most memorable in modern movies. Of course, THE LOST WORLD, JURASSIC PARK III, AND JURASSIC WORLD followed in 1997, 2001, and 2015 respectively. With more to come…

Some honorable mentions: THE LOST WORLD, WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH, THE BEAST OF HOLLOW MOUNTAIN, THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER, KING DINOSAUR, BABY: SECRET OF THE LOST LEGEND, CARNOSAUR, and TEENAGE CAVEMAN!

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Zach Galligan on Gizmo, ‘Gremlins,’ and More Importantly, Phoebe Cates

One of my favorite interviews that I conducted at Entertainment Tonight was with Zach Galligan of GREMLINS fame. In June of 2014 I had been contacted by a publicist to see if I would be interested in talking with Galligan about his new role in the soon-to-be-released HATCHET III. My first thought was, “He’s still doing movies?” A steadily employed actor, Galligan has nonetheless been under the radar as far as starring in Hollywood blockbusters is concerned. I’d venture to say that the two WAXWORK movies he starred in were pretty much the last hurrah of any semi-wide-release distribution he saw in the late ’80s/early ’90s.

Knowing full well that ET would have zero interest in covering the third installment of the HATCHET franchise, I asked the publicist if Galligan was willing to go on camera and talk GREMLINS. To my pleasant surprise, she beamed, “Of course! He loves to talk about GREMLINS.” Often times stars of popular films from decades past really want to put their heyday work behind them so they can stump for their newest project. There’s a notable chill in the air if you ask about that last big hit they had, oh, about 15-20 years ago. But not Zach. He understands that he’ll get the exposure he wants for the likes of a HATCHET III if he gleefully details the ins and outs of working with director Joe Dante and an army of animatronic puppets under the watchful eye of Steven Spielberg.

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While I was keen on gleaning every little bit of behind-the-scenes info on the making of GREMLINS from a technical standpoint, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was just as eager to find out more about Galligan’s co-star Phoebe Cates and how it was to work with her. And, like, if she was as girl-next-door beautiful in person as she is onscreen. And, like, if they dated or anything. Much like every red-blooded American boy who came of age in the ’80s, I’ve been a fan of Phoebe’s work since seeing her in such “classics” as PARADISE, PRIVATE SCHOOL, and, of course, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH. Especially her work in that pool scene. Yeah, you know the one.

Фиби-Кейтс-бикини-бассейн

“There was a certain amount of hysteria around her after that very charged scene, and it made a very lasting impression; people still talk about it 30 years later,” Galligan told me. “Guys would sort of react to her with awe, and they were completely intimidated, which was so funny because she is one of the nicest, most approachable, down-to-earth, cool [people]. She’s a beautiful woman who doesn’t have that sense of, ‘I’m amazing and maybe one day you’ll be able to talk to me.’ She doesn’t have any of that. … So it was great working with her. She was so cool, and she had a boyfriend at the time, so [an on-set romance] never really became an issue.”

GremlinsposterWe talked about the success of GREMLINS and how the one-two punch of the mayhem in that film, paired with the violence of Steven Spielberg’s INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM released that same summer of ’84, prompted the MPAA to create the PG-13 rating. “I think the whole PG-13 controversy also had a lot to do with the way the film was marketed,” observed Galligan of his supposedly kid-centric entry. “I felt that it was kind of fair for parents to say, ‘I thought this was going to be E.T. 2, and it’s more like — as Joe Dante put it — IT’S A WONDERFUL LIZARD OF OZ IN HELL. It’s two movies: It’s the first half that lulls you into a false sense of security, and then it’s the second half which is like this brutal, somewhat vicious flip side of E.T. … So that, combined with [the violence of INDIANA JONES] — Junior now needs therapy.”

We also talked about GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH, and the fact that his present-day career was beginning to pick up again given the fact that young filmmakers — who absolutely loved GREMLINS as kids — wanted to cast him in their films to stoke their nostalgia.

All in all, I chatted with the amiable, down-to-earth Galligan for a close to an hour. With so much great material, I was forced to whittle the long interview down to a robust, 10-minute video segment. Watch it below:

The one thing I don’t like about the resulting cut is the fact that we unfortunately had only one camera for the shoot. So I recited a bunch of my questions for Galligan again after the interview to an empty chair. We cut it together to make it look like the actor and I were face-to-face, but the comfortable chemistry we established is very obviously missing in the final product, if you ask me. Still, the interview remains one of my favorites among the many I’ve conducted in my career.

Oh, and Zach graciously signed my DVD copy of GREMLINS. Super-cool guy.

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