16 Things You Might Not Know About Rambo

Sean Hutchinson and Mental_Floss present 16 Things You Might Not Know About Rambo.  Here are three of my favorites…

 4. RAMBO DOESN’T ACTUALLY KILL ANYONE IN THE FIRST MOVIE.
Despite his notorious reputation for shooting first and asking questions later, Rambo doesn’t actually do anyone in in First Blood—he only severely wounds the people trying to hunt and harm him. This was a conscious effort on Stallone’s part in his script to change the character into an underdog from the character in the book who, due to his PTSD, goes on a wild killing rampage, which Stallone felt would alienate the audience.

The one character who does die is Deputy Galt, who tracks Rambo through the mountains in a helicopter. Galt, who attempts to shoot Rambo with a rifle, loses his balance and falls from the helicopter after Rambo merely throws a rock toward it to defend himself.

Like the book, Rambo himself was to die at the end of the movie at the hands of Colonel Trautman. The scene where Rambo is killed was filmed, but was scrapped after test audiences hated the fact that it seemed to imply the only way for veterans returning home to cope was by dying.

5. KIRK DOUGLAS WAS SUPPOSED TO PLAY COLONEL TRAUTMAN.
The veteran movie star actually made it to set and appeared in early advertisements for First Blood, but left the production when he demanded the right to rewrite the script. Douglas favored the ending of the book, and felt that Rambo should die in the end. The actor gave the filmmakers an ultimatum: if the production didn’t let him do what he wanted with the script he’d quit. Kotcheff and Stallone wanted to leave the door open for the possibility for Rambo to live or die at the end of the movie, so they let Douglas quit.

Actor Richard Crenna was then cast with a single day’s notice to fill Douglas’ shoes as Rambo’s mentor and father figure, Colonel Trautman. Crenna would reprise his role in two more Rambo movies before he passed away in 2003. He is the only actor besides Stallone to appear in multiple Rambo movies.

The unused alternate ending of First Blood, in which Trautman shoots and kills Rambo, can be seen briefly in the dream sequence in the fourth film, Rambo.

2. HE’S BASED ON A REAL-LIFE WAR HERO.
Morrell first thought of writing a book about a decorated war hero struggling to assimilate back to civilian life when he read about the real-life exploits of World War II soldier Audie Murphy. Murphy was the most decorated American soldier in World War II, earning every possible U.S. military decoration for valor as well as five separate decorations from foreign countries including France and Belgium.

Following the war, Murphy starred as himself in the film adaptation of his own autobiography,To Hell and Back, and would go on to have a film career, appearing in 44 feature films. Murphy—who later suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, which also inspired Morrell’s characterization of Rambo—tragically died in a plane crash in 1971. The Canadian-born Morrell decided to update his novel to the post-Vietnam era due to the political and cultural climate he saw as a grad student at Penn State in the late 1960s.

Morrell would go on to write the novelizations of the second and third Rambo movies. Since he had Rambo die at the end of the first book he had to retroactively change that to have his hero alive and well in the subsequent books.

Source: David Morrell.

Ridley Scott to Direct S. Craig Zahler’s Wraiths of the Broken Land

Ridley Scott is set to direct an adaptation of S. Craig Zahler’s novel Wraiths of the Broken Land. Drew Goddard will take the screenwriting reins.

This is an all-star team:  

  • Ridley Scott is the acclaimed director of Gladiator, Blade Runner, Alien and so many more fan favorite films.
  • S. Craig Zahler is the writer and director of Bone Tomahawk as well as the up-coming Brawl on Cell Block 99.
  • Drew Goddard is known for his work on Netflix’s Daredevil, The Martian, World War Z and more.

As for Wraiths of the Broken Land, here’s how Amazon describes it…

A brutal and unflinching tale that takes many of its cues from both cinema and pulp horror, Wraiths of the Broken Land is like no Western you’ve ever seen or read. Desperate to reclaim two kidnapped sisters who were forced into prostitution, the Plugfords storm across the badlands and blast their way through Hell. This gritty, character-driven piece will have you by the throat from the very first page and drag you across sharp rocks for its unrelenting duration. Prepare yourself for a savage Western experience that combines elements of Horror, Noir and Asian ultra-violence. You’ve been warned.

 

Source: ComingSoon.

 

Darwyn Cooke – R.I.P.

When I read yesterday that Darwyn Cooke was battling an aggressive cancer, it was like an unexpected gut shot.  Truth be told, I only knew Darwyn through his art, stories and the several times I met him at comic shows… but I was such a fan and Darwyn always treated me (and other fans) with such respect and kindness, it sure seemed I knew him better than I did.

I’ve always loved Darwyn’s art and when he began adapting Richard Stark’s Parker novels, I thought it could never get better than that.  Each time I caught up with Darwyn at a show I’d have his latest hardcover for him to sign and he always included a quick headsketch with the signature.  I loved talking to Darwyn about his latest project and what was coming.

Sadly it was announced today that Darwyn passed at 1:30 this morning surrounded by friends, family and aware of all of the well-wishes that had been pouring in since the news about his illness had been announced.

My thoughts, prayers and best wishes go out to Darwyn’s family, friends and fans.  Rest in Peace, Darwyn.

14 Epic Facts About “Gangs of New York”

Eric D. Snider and Mental_Floss present 14 Epic Facts About Gangs of New York.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. IT WAS 32 YEARS IN THE MAKING.
Martin Scorsese read Herbert Asbury’s 1928 nonfiction book The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld in 1970 and immediately thought it would make a good movie. He didn’t have any money or clout yet though, so he had to wait. He bought the movie rights to the book in 1979, and even got a screenplay written around that time, then spent the next 20 years trying to get the project off the ground before finding a willing financial partner in Harvey Weinstein at Miramax Films.

7. SEVERAL CHARACTERS WERE BASED ON REAL PEOPLE.
Bill the Butcher was real, though Scorsese changed his surname from Poole to Cutting for the movie to reflect a creative liberty he’d taken, i.e., having the character live to see the Civil War (he was actually murdered in 1855). William “Boss” Tweed (Jim Broadbent) was a real politician who controlled the Tammany Hall political machine, as you may recall from your high school U.S. history class. So were the Schermerhorns, the rich people seen taking a tour of the misery and vice of Five Points. (Interesting footnote: Scorsese’s fifth wife, whom he married in 1999, is one Helen Schermerhorn Morris, a descendant of early New York elites.) Perhaps most surprisingly, Hell-Cat Maggie (Cara Seymour)—the vicious female fighter who bites off victims’ ears—was fact-based, being a composite of the real Hell-Cat Maggie (her real name is unknown) and a few other historical lady criminals.

13. THERE WERE LONGER CUTS OF THE MOVIE, BUT YOU WON’T SEE THEM.
The first cut, the throw-in-everything-and-see-what-works version, was three hours and 38 minutes, almost an hour longer than the final cut. Scorsese and his longtime editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, tinkered with it relentlessly, ultimately producing 18 different versions that were screened for various audiences. Weinstein, rightfully nicknamed Harvey Scissorhands for his ruthless trimming of the movies he releases, no doubt urged Scorsese toward a shorter runtime, but Scorsese said he’s happy with the one everybody saw, which is two hours and 47 minutes.

“There’s not one version that I would say, ‘That’s my original version,’” Scorsese said on the DVD commentary. They were more like drafts: “This was all a series of changes and rewrites and restructuring, until finally it comes down to the movie you see in the theater.”

16 Lively Facts About “Death Wish”

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

4. CHARLES BRONSON AND HIS AGENT DISAGREED ON THE FILM’S MESSAGE.
“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.”

6. DENZEL WASHINGTON MADE HIS ON-SCREEN DEBUT IN THE MOVIE.

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

16. SYLVESTER STALLONE WANTED TO REMAKE IT.
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.’

‘No.’

‘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…

1. THE SCRIPTING PROCESS WAS TOUGH.
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.”

 

3. JAMES ELLROY DIDN’T THINK THE BOOK COULD BE ADAPTED.
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.”

 

10. ELLROY APPROVED OF THE MOVIE.
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…

2. IT WOULDN’T EXIST IF HIGH SIERRA HADN’T BEEN A HIT.
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.

4. HUMPHREY BOGART’S ICONIC RAPID-FIRE DELIVERY WAS THE RESULT OF A STUDIO NOTE.
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.

5. IT GOT AWAY WITH USING AN OBJECTIONABLE WORD, PROBABLY BECAUSE THE CENSORS WEREN’T COOL ENOUGH TO KNOW IT.
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

2. SEAN CONNERY DIDN’T UNDERSTAND THE SCRIPT.
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.

7. VIN DIESEL, LIAM NEESON, AND UMA THURMAN WERE UP FOR ROLES.
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.”

5. VIGGO MORTENSEN TOOK SEVERAL BEATINGS.
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

Rating:

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