16 Lively Facts About “Death Wish”

Roger Cormier and Mental_Floss present 16 Lively Facts About Death Wish.  Here are three of my favorites…

“It’s the only time Paul Kohner, my agent, ever disagreed with me about a film,” Bronson said in 1974. “Paul felt very strongly that it was a dangerous picture—that it might make people think it’s right to take the law into their own hands. This is what the hero of the picture does when he wants a one-man vigilante squad to kill muggers, after three of them have murdered his wife and raped his daughter. I told Paul I thought the message was the same there that runs through a lot of my pictures: That violence is senseless because it only begets more violence.”


Denzel Washington’s acting debut as a thug was, unfortunately, uncredited. He was 19 years old at the time.

Sylvester Stallone was set to direct and star in a Death Wish remake for MGM back in 2008. While that project, uh, died, it was recently reported that Paramount and MGM are teaming up to remake the movie—with Bruce Willis starring.

27 Things We Learned from Roger Donaldson’s “No Way Out” Commentary

Rob Hunter and Film School Rejects present 27 Things We Learned from Roger Donaldson’s No Way Out Commentary.  Here are three of my favorites…

25. The ending of the film was apparently “controversial” at the time as audiences are on the side of Costner’s character throughout only to be stung by the final revelation. He was happy that people kept the secret and wonders if that aided the word of mouth and the film’s success. Can you imagine this movie opening in today’s internet culture?

21. The shot of Susan falling to her death was filmed with her standing upright on a dolly being pushed towards a wall that had been made up like the floor complete with a glass table.

4. The film is based on Kenneth Fearing’s novel, The Big Clock, but Donaldson thought it was an original script all the way through production. “I was at a party and ran into Mel Gibson, and he said ‘Oh I heard you made the remake of The Big Clock.’”

10 Facts About Tarzan That Will Surprise You

Mathew Baugh and Listverse present 10 Facts About Tarzan That Will Surprise You.  Here are three of my favorites…

Tarzan Was Not Raised By Gorillas
Everybody knows Tarzan was raised by gorillas. It’s part of the established Tarzan lore . . . right? Well, this is a common misconception. In fact, it’s so common that a number of movies have gotten it wrong.

Tarzan was actually raised by a species of ape unknown to science. These creatures resemble gorillas in size and strength, but they differ in other ways. These great apes often walk upright, hunt animals, eat meat, and have a spoken language. They call themselves the “mangani,” and Burroughs describes them as “huge,” “fierce,” and “terrible.” He adds that they’re “a species closely allied to the gorilla, yet more intelligent.” Thanks to their smarts and strength, the mangani are “the most fearsome of these awe-inspiring progenitors of man.”

Edgar Rice Burroughs Killed Jane
The first actress to play Jane Porter was Enid Markey in Tarzan of the Apes. Unfortunately, Ms. Markey was a brunette, which went against Burroughs’s image of Jane. In the novels, Jane is actually a blonde. (She isn’t British, either. She’s actually from Maryland.) It didn’t help that Burroughs hated Markey’s performance. In fact, he supposedly hated it so much that he killed off Jane in his next story.

In the first chapter of Tarzan the Untamed, Tarzan is away from home when World War I breaks out. When he returns, he finds that German soldiers have looted and burned his home, killing many of his servants and friends in the process. And shockingly, they’ve murdered Jane.

Tarzan Auditioned For A Tarzan Movie
Edgar Rice Burroughs had a love/hate relationship with Hollywood. He loved the exposure and extra income, but he hated the way movies changed his character. He particularly disliked Elmo Lincoln, the first movie Tarzan, who was afraid of heights. Lincoln was also a beefy man with a 132-centimeter(52 in) chest in contrast to the lean, athletic Tarzan of the books.

Nor was Burroughs happy with Johnny Weissmuller (pictured above), the most famous movie Tarzan. He wanted Tarzan to be articulate, but Weissmuller’s version could barely speak English.

The author took out his frustration in Tarzan and the Lion Man. In this novel, our hero rescues a movie crew filming in the African jungle. Along the way, Burroughs mocks the actors, directors, and moviemaking in general. But the coup de grace comes in the last chapter. After his adventure, Tarzan visits Hollywood, and he’s taken to meet a casting director:

The casting director sized Clayton up. ‘You look all right to me; I’ll take you up to Mr. Goldeen; he’s production manager. Had any experience?’

‘As Tarzan?’

The casting director laughed. ‘I mean in pictures.’


‘Well, you might be all right at that. You don’t have to be a Barrymore to play Tarzan. Come on, we’ll go up to Mr. Goldeen’s office.’

They had to wait a few minutes in the outer office, and then a secretary ushered them in.

‘Hello, Ben!’ the casting director greeted Goldeen. ‘I think I’ve got just the man for you. This is Mr. Clayton, Mr. Goldeen.’

‘For what?’

‘For Tarzan.’

‘Oh, m-m-m.’

Goldeen’s eyes surveyed Clayton critically for an instant; then the production manager made a gesture with his palm as though waving them away. He shook his head. ‘Not the type,’ he snapped. ‘Not the type, at all.’

10 Hush-Hush Facts About “L.A. Confidential”

Mathew Jackson and Mental Floss present 10 Hush-Hush Facts About L.A. Confidential.  Here are three of my favorites…

Writer-director Curtis Hanson had been a longtime James Ellroy fan when he finally read L.A. Confidential, and the characters in that particular Ellroy novel really spoke to him, so he began working on a script. Meanwhile, Brian Helgeland—originally contracted to write an unproduced Viking film for Warner Bros.—was also a huge Ellroy fan, and lobbied hard for the studio to give him the scripting job. When he learned that Hanson already had it, the two met, and bonded over their mutual admiration of Ellroy’s prose. Their passion for the material was clear, but it took two years to get the script done, with a number of obstacles.

“He would turn down other jobs; I would be doing drafts for free,” Helgeland said. “Whenever there was a day when I didn’t want to get up anymore, Curtis tipped the bed and rolled me out on the floor.”


Though Wolper was intrigued by the idea of telling the story onscreen, Ellroy and his agent laughed at the thought. The author felt his massive book would never fit on any screen.

“It was big, it was bad, it was bereft of sympathetic characters,” Ellroy said. “It was unconstrainable, uncontainable, and unadaptable.”


To adapt L.A. Confidential for the screen, Hanson and Helgeland condensed Ellroy’s original novel, boiling the story down to a three-person narrative and ditching other subplots so they could get to the heart of the three cops at the center of the movie. Ellroy, in the end, was pleased with their choices.


“They preserved the basic integrity of the book and its main theme, which is that everything in Los Angeles during this era of boosterism and yahooism was two-sided and two-faced and put out for cosmetic purposes,” Ellroy said. “The script is very much about the [characters’] evolution as men and their lives of duress. Brian and Curtis took a work of fiction that had eight plotlines, reduced those to three, and retained the dramatic force of three men working out their destiny. I’ve long held that hard-boiled crime fiction is the history of bad white men doing bad things in the name of authority. They stated that case plain.”

Brian J. Davis Creates The Composites

The police artist rendering above is of a famous literary figure.

Any idea who?

Before I tell you, let me tell you about the process in making the piece.

Brian J Davis is a filmmaker and digital artist living in Brooklyn.  Using composite sketch software available to police sketch artists, Davis creates the drawings of famous literary characters and posts them on his The Composites website.

There you can find composites of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Hannibal Lector, Jack Torrance, The Vampire Lestat and others.

Oh, the character above?  Why, that’s Bond. James Bond.

Source: CBR.com.

13 Mysterious Facts About “The Maltese Falcon”

Eric D. Snider and Mental_Floss present 13 Mysterious Facts About The Maltese Falcon.  Here are three of my favorites…

John Huston, son of popular stage and screen actor Walter Huston, was a successful scriptwriter for Warner Bros. in the late 1930s, earning Oscar nominations for Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet (1940) and Sergeant York (1941). When he asked the Warners for a shot at directing, they agreed (and even let him choose the project himself), but only if his next script was a hit. That was High Sierra, starring Humphrey Bogart, directed by Raoul Walsh, and released in January 1941. Fortunately for Huston, it was a success, and the Warners kept their word. The Maltese Falcon, also starring Bogart, was shot that summer and released in the fall. It was the first of five movies Huston and Bogart would make together.

Detective Sam Spade had a lot of speeches, which the Warners felt tended to slow things down. They asked Huston to pick up the pace by having Bogart (and the others) talk faster. Huston, eager to please on his first film, took the note to heart and instructed everyone accordingly. When the film was a hit, the rat-a-tat pace became one of the hallmarks of film noir.

Sam Spade uses the word “gunsel” three times in reference to Wilmer, the hitman who works for Kasper Gutman, a.k.a. the Fat Man. Hammett used the same word in his novel, but only after his editor objected to the word he used first: “catamite,” which is a young man kept by an older man for sexual purposes. While Hammett’s novel identified Cairo (Peter Lorre’s character) as a homosexual and hinted at it for Wilmer and Gutman, this term was considered too explicit. Hammett replaced it with “gunsel,” which his editor assumed meant “gunslinger” or some such. But it didn’t. Gunsel—from the Yiddish word for “little goose,” and passed along in American hobo culture—was merely a synonym for “catamite,” but was too new to be familiar. Hammett got away with it in the book, and it slipped past the Production Code censors when it popped up in the screenplay. Because of Hammett’s usage, the word came to take on “gunman” as a secondary meaning. But make no mistake, it wasn’t Wilmer’s possession of a firearm that Sam Spade was referring to.

20 Epic Facts About “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy

Rebecca Pahle and Mental_Floss present 20 Epic Facts About The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  Here are three of my favorites

Sean Connery read for the role of Gandalf but admitted that, “I never understood it. I read the book. I read the script. I saw the movie. I still don’t understand it … I would be interested in doing something that I didn’t fully understand, but not for 18 months.” Connery’s deal, if he had taken the role, would have been for a small fee plus 15 percent of the films’ income. Incidentally, the entire trilogy went on to earn just shy of $3 billion worldwide.

Among other could-have-beens in the casting department: Vin Diesel auditioned for Aragorn; Jackson called his performance “very compelling” but said that it didn’t “feel like Aragorn.” Jackson approached Richard O’Brien, best known as Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which he also wrote), for the role of Gríma Wormtongue, but his agents turned it down, believing the films would be unsuccessful. Liam Neeson passed on the role of Boromir.

There were also “discussions,” recalls Jackson, about then-married couple Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman playing Faramir and Éowyn; “Ethan was a huge fan of the books and was very keen to be involved. Uma was less sure and rightly so, because we were revising how we saw Éowyn’s character literally as we went. In the end, Ethan let it go—with some reluctance.”

A variety of injuries beset the cast during production, but Mortensen had it particularly hard: inThe Two Towers, that scream he let out upon kicking a helmet after discovering the burnt corpses of the Orcs who abducted Merry and Pippin might have something to do with the fact that he had just broken two of his toes. “Normally, an actor would yell ‘Ow!’ if they hurt themselves,” noted Jackson. “Viggo turned a broken toe into a performance.” Elijah Wood remembers Mortensen “getting half of his tooth knocked out during a fight sequence, and his insistence on applying superglue to put it back in to keep working.”

Joe Lansdale’s “Hap & Leonard” Trailer and More!

Hap and Leonard is a new series coming to the Sundance Channel.

Based on the novels by Joe Lansdale, Hap and Leonard stars James Purefoy (The Following), Michael Kenneth WIlliams (Boardwalk Empire) and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men).

The Wrap has some exclusive photos and The Sundance Channel has a trailer and more.

Z-View: “In Cold Blood”

In Cold Blood (1967)

Director: Richard Brooks

Screenplay: Richard Brooks (based on Truman Capote’s book of the same name)

Stars: Robert Blake, Scott Wilson and John Forsythe

The Pitch: “Let’s make a movie based on the best-selling book In Cold Blood!”

The Tagline: “Written for the screen and directed by Richard Brooks.”


The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Dick Hickcock [Scott Wilsion] and Perry Smith [Robert Blake Perry] have a plan to steal $10,000 cash from a rich farmer’s safe and then high-tail it to Mexico where they will live out their days safe from extradition.  The two ex-cons violate their parole and drive through the night to Holcomb, Kansas where according to one of Hickcock’s past cellmates, a fortune sits in the Cutter safe.

 The only thing Hickcock and Smith find at the Cutter house are Mr. Cutter, Mrs. Cutter and their two teenage children.  Hickcock and Smith place the family members in separate rooms, tie them up and search for the safe.  There is no safe, no fortune and just a little over forty dollars in cash in the house. Hickcock and Smith brutally kill the Cutter family and then head back towards Kansas City.

The discovery that the Cutter family was brutally murdered makes national news and as the investigation grows, Hickcock and Smith decide to head to Mexico.  They pass bad checks, pawn the items they buy and use the money to get across the border.  It isn’t long before they’re low on cash and decide to go to Vegas to raise more. In Vegas  Hickcock and Smith are picked up on a parole violation.

The cops interrogate them separately.  Neither admits to knowing anything about the Cutter family murders.  As the evidence begins to pile up, Hickcock suddenly tries to pin the murders on SmithSmith then turns on Hickcock and the case is made.  A trial, a death sentence and the gallows are all that Hickcock and Smith have left to look forward to.  Sadly, one is left with the feeling that either man alone would not have committed the murders.

Wilson (probably best known to folks as Hershel from The Walking Dead) and Blake (probably best known as the crazy old celebrity acquitted of killing his second wife in 2005) are excellent as the leads.  Robert Brooks deserves kudos for his screenplay and direction.

Watch for cameos by: Will Geer [Grandpa from The Waltons] and music by Quincy Jones!

Award Nominations:

Academy Awards –

  • Best Director
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Original Music Score
  • Best Adapted Screenplay


Z-View: “Anatomy of a Murder”

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Director: Otto Preminger

Screenplay: Wendell Mayes, John D. Voelker (based on his novel written as Robert Traver)

Stars: James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazarra, Arthur O’Connell and George C. Scott

The Pitch: “Let’s make a movie based on the best-selling novel Anatomy of a Murder!”

The Tagline: “Last year’s No.1 best-seller … This year’s No.1 motion picture.”


The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Stewart plays small town attorney Paul Biegler who’d rather be fishing than practicing law.  Biegler’s mentor is Parnell McCarthy (Arthur O’Connell) who’d rather be boozing it up than just about anything.  When Biegler is offered the chance to defend Fredrick Manion (Ben Gazara), against a murder charge, he sees it as a way to get McCarthy off the booze.  Manion is a soldier accused of murdering the man who raped his wife (Lee Remick).

We spend the first part of the movie learning about the case.

Biegler meets Manion, a quick-tempered, hard-to-like soldier who admits to killing the man who raped his wife about an hour after finding out about it.  This wasn’t a heat of the moment murder.  After meeting Manion’s wife who is sporting a beat-up face and a casual attitude, Biegler finds himself in a case where nothing is clear cut.

Manion is a jealous, thuggish man who likes his wife to dress provocatively and then gets jealous when men give her attention.  Laura Manion likes men, booze and fun.  Being married doesn’t stop her from having a good time where she can find it.  She married Manion three days after divorcing her first husband and admits that Manion was the reason for the divorce.

Was Laura raped?  She was beat-up, but did that happen during the rape or when he husband found out she had been with another man.  The clinical evidence is inconclusive.  Something happened but under what circumstances?

The second part of the movie takes us into the courtroom for one of the best courtroom dramas ever filmed.

The acting across the board is excellent.  Stewart (Best Actor), O’Connell (Best Supporting Actor) and Scott (Best Supporting Actor) were all nominated for Academy Awards.  I’m surprised Lee Remick wasn’t as well, because she is that good.  The film went on to be nominated for seven Oscars as well as other honors.

To the movie’s credit, the jury comes back with a verdict, but knowing the evidence of the case and the things that we see that the jury doesn’t, the audience may come away with a different verdict.  At the very least, there is room for discussion.

The last scene is a treat and adds another layer to the puzzle.

Watch for cameos by: Howard McNear [Floyd the Barber from The Andy Griffith Show] and Duke Ellington!

Awards Won:

New York Film Critics Circle Awards –

  • Best Actor, James Stewart
  • Best Screenplay, Wendell Mayes; 1959.

Venice International Film Festival –  

  • Volpi Cup
  • Best Actor, James Stewart; 1959.

Grammy Awards –

  • Best Performance by a Dance Band
  • Best Musical Composition First Recorded and Released in 1959
  • Best Sound Track Album.

Producers Guild of America Awards –  

  • Top Drama
  • Top Male Dramatic Performance, James Stewart
  • Top Male Supporting Performance, Arthur O’Connell; 1960.


Award Nominations:

Academy Awards –

  • Best Actor in a Leading Role: James Stewart
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Arthur O’Connell
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role: George C. Scott
  • Best Cinematography, Black-and-White: Sam Leavitt
  • Best Film Editing: Louis R. Loeffler
  • Best Picture: Otto Preminger
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium: Wendell Mayes; 1960

British Academy Film Awards –

  • Best Film from any Source Otto Preminger, USA
  • Best Foreign Actor James Stewart, USA
  • Most Promising Newcomer Joseph N. Welch, USA; 1960.

Directors Guild of America Awards –

  • DGA Award Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film, Otto Preminger; 1960.

Golden Globe Awards –

  • Best Motion Picture – Drama
  • Best Performance By An Actress In A Motion Picture – Drama: Lee Remick
  • Best Director – Motion Picture: Otto Preminger
  • Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role In A Motion Picture: Joseph N. Welch; 1960.


13 Spirited Facts About “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

Andrew N. Wong and Mental_Floss present 13 Spirited Facts About How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Here are three of my favorites


Coming in at over $300,000, or $2.2 million in today’s dollars, the special’s budget was unheard of at the time for a 26-minute cartoon adaptation. For comparison’s sake, A Charlie Brown Christmas’s budget was reported as $96,000, or roughly $722,000 today (and this was after production had gone $20,000 over the original budget).


Because reading the book out loud only takes about 12 minutes, Jones was faced with the challenge of extending the story. For this, he turned to Max the dog. “That whole center section where Max is tied up to the sleigh, and goes down through the mountainside, and has all those problems getting down there, was good comic business as it turns out,” Jones explained in TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas special, which is a special feature on the movie’s DVD. “But it was all added; it was not part of the book.” Jones would go on to name Max as his favorite character from the special, as he felt that he directly represented the audience.


The famous voice actor and singer, best known for providing the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, wasn’t recognized for his work in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Because of this, most viewers wrongly assumed that the narrator of the special, Boris Karloff, also sang the piece in question. Upset by this oversight, Geisel personally apologized to Ravenscroft and vowed to make amends. Geisel went on to pen a letter, urging all the major columnists that he knew to help him rectify the mistake by issuing a notice of correction in their publications.

Z-View: “The Wiz Live”

The Wiz Live  [2015]
Director: Kenny Leon
Based on the play The Wiz by William F. Brown
Starring: Shanice Williams, Elijah Kelley, Ne-Yo and David Allan Grier.

The Pitch: We need a new musical to do live on tv…. Hey, let’s do The Wiz!

The Tagline: “Ease on down the road to Oz!”

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Everyone knows the story of The Wizard of Oz.  This is an adaptation of that story.  Actually, this version is an adaptation of an adaptation of The Wizard of  Oz.

The Wiz first appeared as a Broadway play in 1975.  Then in 1978, The Wiz turned up in theaters as a movie starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson directed by Sidney Lumet.

This version was broadcast live with Shanice Williams as Dorothy, Elijah Kelley as the Scarecrow, Ne-Yo as the Tin Man and David Allan Grier as the Cowardly LionQueen Latifah plays the Wizard and there are appearances by Common, Mary J. Blige and Stephanie Mills.

I enjoyed The Wiz.  The cast was excellent and special mention to David Allan Grier as the Cowardly Lion and Elijah Kelley as the Tin Man for their performances.  Stand out scenes include Dorothy meeting the Scarecrow [loved the crows], when our group on the way to Oz come across the poppies, and the Lion singing “I’m a Mean ole Lion.”

If I were to pick nits:  I wish the show had been presented before a live audience.  I think it would have enhanced the viewing experience.  I was a bit let down by the tornado sequence, the creatures sent by the Wicked Witch to collect Dorothy and some of story shortcuts.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Wiz Live.  It was a fine way to spend a couple of hours in Oz.


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