December 30, 2013

Ian Hendry - the actor's first biography

An acting talent, a premature death - too typical of the time

You might know Ian Hendry from playing opposite big names like Sean Connery in The Hill (1965), Catherine Deneuve in Roman Polanski's Repulsion (both 1965) or Michael Caine in Get Carter (1971).

Ian Hendry (without sunglasses) in Get Carter

You might know him from cult, sci-fi or horror films. Astronaut training with Roy Thinnes on the Journey To The Far Side of the Sun (1969, UK title Doppelganger). Facing his destiny and his reflection in one of the Tales From The Crypt (1972). Picking a sword fight in a pub with Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter (made in 1972 but not released until 1974). Trapped with Leo McKern learning the secret of Damien: Omen II (1978). One of the teachers tangling with the Children of the Damned (1964). Because of all these roles, and more, Hendry is a familiar face, synonymous with seemingly effortless, poignant, tough performances.

Alan Badel and Ian Hendry in Children of the Damned
Perhaps he's best represented as the leader of the critics' circle that was picked off by Vincent Price in Theatre of Blood (1973). Besides standing out against an amazing cast, he also gets an amazing, bouncy sabre duel with Vincent Price.

Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) really doesn't like bad reviews
Hendry landed far more leading roles in TV series, where he impressively racked up over five hundred episodes and TV plays. He left after the first ever season of The Avengers (1961), leaving Patrick Macnee to become the star. He quit in search of film roles, one of many turning points in his life that may not have been for the best. He met John Steed again in an early episode of The New Avengers (1976, To Catch A Rat) playing an over-the-hill secret agent.

Patrick Macnee and Ian Hendry in The Avengers
This new biography of Ian Hendry, the first ever, tells the turbulent story of the actor's life and how aspects were often reflected in his many screen roles. His increasing alcoholism becoming a large factor in his suitability for subsequent work.

But this is a fierce defence of Hendry's abilities as well as a diary of his declining health. The tragedy is that this was a familiar lifestyle of the time, so many dying prematurely because of unrecognised and largely untreated addictions. In the book, Hendry's problems are constantly compared to other alcoholics whose acting careers somehow suffered less. It's interesting for the many stories about the similar behaviour of many of his contemporaries and co-stars, who also aged visibly because of nicotine and alcohol dependency. Something all too evident now that we can review entire film careers so easily.

In Theatre of Blood as the critic paying for his scathing reviews
Much has been written about the "hellraisers" of the 1960s and 1970s, usually biased towards the actors who (somehow) managed to keep working successfully, like Richard Burton. But here is an actor with similarly destructive habits and a comparable talent who never got as big a break.

A fascinating read, highlighting his near misses and a growing sense of what might have been. This celebrates the body of work he achieved, points out much that I'd missed and sensitively narrates his increasingly disastrous private life. Hendry's painful decline is capped with an incredibly sad death that has haunted me since. A terrible way to go and a formidable warning against the glamour of hellraising.

Gabriel Hershman's extensive research was backed with an impressive roster of interviews with those who knew or worked with Hendry. A thorough filmography lists all his known appearances and throughout the book, it always notes their availability (or existence).

'Send In The Clowns - The Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry' on sale here from AbeBooks.

Author Gabriel Hershman has his public Facebook page here. There's an interview with him about the book here on RetroSellers.

There's also a professional-looking fan website for Ian Hendry here with rare photos and YouTube links. They also have a Facebook page regularly updated with contemporary press clippings and more photos.

December 23, 2013

Flashback 1977 (part one) - ROCKY, CARRIE, GRIZZLY, SWEENEY!

A look at British movie magazines published in 1977. This was probably the peak of my cinemagoing years, at least weekly. I've several magazines from each month and there's plenty of great adverts in them, so this year will be spread over two posts because it's so picture-heavy. And speaking of heavy... 

January, Photoplay Film Monthly
1933, 1976, 2005... every thirty years, a new version of King Kong! But this was my first Kong, as I'd somehow missed the original on TV before then. The publicity for this had been exciting, especially the news of a full-sized Kong robot, built by Carlo Rambaldi. After seeing the film though, his name wasn't a watchword for quality. Not until he worked on something more convincing, which he did with Close Encounters, Alien and E.T..

The producers played down the fact that for almost all of the movie, Kong was played by a man in a suit. Despite the lack of credit in the publicity material, they used Rick Baker in the suit (that he also built) for most of their publicity photos - like the shot on this cover (above). Baker was about to become a special make-up effects legend, wowing the world with his transformation and zombie prosthetics for An American Werewolf in London and later perfecting his ape suits for Gorillas in the Mist.

January, Films and Filming
While lazily thinking that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was a movie from 1974, it was a surprise to find Films and Filming reviewing it in January 1977 (above)! This single page led me to do a little research and write about the infamous horror film's rocky reception in the UK.

January, Film Review
Especially weird that, because The Texas Chain Saw Massacre didn't get a usual nationwide release, movie magazines were running sensationalist adverts for horror films Schizo and Survive, while Chain Saw wasn't even mentioned and no adverts appeared in Photoplay or Film Review magazines to herald its release in cinemas.

Marathon Man got a great head start with the publicity from William Goldman's bestselling novel. The movie adaption is a superbly tight thriller with a great cast, including Dustin Hoffman, Marthe Keller and Laurence Olivier (with William Devane and Roy Scheider in supporting roles!). It benefits greatly from the many New York City locations.
January, Films and Filming

January, Film Review
I'm not suggesting you see Elizabeth Taylor in The Blue Bird, it's just that this is a photo of her and a young Patsy Kensit!

January, Film Review
The Enforcer. Shouldn't that be, 'Clint Eastwood is still Dirty Harry?'

January, Films Illustrated
I bought this issue of Films Illustrated because of this colour photo from the climax of Carrie. Filming this scene, Sissy Spacek remembers that she was to remain on stage until it became too hot for her - that was her cue to leave the stage. She waited long enough for the hairs on the back of her neck to be singed!

February, Film Review
Carrie was one of my favourite ever cinema experiences, making every other Brian De Palma film a must-see (well, until Wise Guys, anyway).

February, Film Review
While US movies were moving to photographic posters, the UK were making do with painted artwork like this one for the first Sweeney movie, which makes it look like a boys' comic!

February, Film Review
Simple poster for Scorsese's Taxi Driver. If someone could explain how Jodie Foster continued making Disney movies after appearing in this, I'd love to hear it!

February, Photoplay Film Monthly
The wonderful Grizzly, at one point going to be called 'Claws', is basically Jaws on land. With about as much gore - but not in UK cinemas. The widescreen DVD was my first chance to see the bloody mayhem. This has now been promised on blu-ray...

More about Grizzly, here.

March, Film Review

March, American Cinematographer
It only took a couple of films for word of mouth to save Garrett Brown the need to advertise his revolutionary way of producing smooth tracking shots without the need for laborious laying of tracks. The Steadicam mount also meant that the camera could move smoothly around corners and give more lifelike point-of-view shots. His work would be showcased extensively in The Shining, particularly the low angle shots of Danny roaming the corridor and running through the maze, not to mention the opening 'long-take' murder in Halloween.

By the time Network was released, Peter Finch was already dead. His performance as Howard Beale, the news announcer who melts down on air but drives the ratings up, won him a posthumous Academy Award.
March, Films and Filming
Faye Dunaway's ruthless TV executive still resonates today as the battle for ratings continues to exploit celebrity meltdowns...

March, Films Illustrated
A typical 'quotes' poster that tells you how good a movie is without letting you know what it's about. This is rare for Woody Allen as he's not directing and it's based on the true stories of blacklisted writers who used other writers' names to get their work commissioned. While Woody plays opposite Zero Mostel, this is as serious as it is funny.

Not content to have a fast-moving action/comedy/romance, Colin Higgins had to add a huge 'disaster movie' scene. An early case of a story being 'Bruckheimered'. A lot of fun, the first film to team up Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, but strangely not often mentioned alongside their later comedy double-acts. Richard Kiel also appears here as a silent killer henchman with silver-teeth, before being cast in The Spy Who Loved Me.

More about Silver Streak, here.

June, Film Review
Zoltan - Hound of Dracula. What a silly film. Would make a great double-bill with Devil Dog - Hound of Hell though.

June, Film Review
This looked too fierce and transgressional to tempt me into the cinema at the time. Don't think I could have coped with the opening newsreel scenes as a teenager (I'm assuming it was left intact in UK cinemas).

As an adult, I really appreciated its uncompromising ferocity as ahead of its time, with a unique tone that failed to be replicated in the recent remake.

June, Films Illustrated
Tentacles needed a lot more money to live up to the concept of a giant killer octopus. It's still bonkers-watchable for the incredible cast coping with a bloody awful script. Bo Hopkins should get some sort of Bad Oscar for his heartfelt speech to his killer whales. Catchy score from Stelvio Cipriani though.

April, Film Review
As we've seen (Taxi Driver above) Jodie Foster was already in demand, here starring in creepy Canadian thriller The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane. The story of this not-so-little girl living with her dad on the edge of town, trying to fend off the attentions of predatory paedo (Martin Sheen) is still very watchable.

More about The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane, here.

June, Film Review
After two adult thrillers, Jodie's back again as the lovable tomboy who swaps bodies with her mum (Barbara Harris). Elements of the story had been done before, but this was the first Freaky Friday and years before Big. Jodie on a skateboard!

June, Film Review

June, Film Review
By the time the UK got Rocky, the publicity could wave all its Oscars at us. Then sports movies suddenly got big...

June, Photoplay Film Monthly
Director Dan Curtis was better known for his TV series (Dark Shadows, Kolchak - The Night Stalker) and creepy TV movies (Trilogy of Terror) but based on Burnt Offerings, should have been given more movies. Oliver Reed, Karen Black, Bette Davies and Lee Montgomery are all impressive.

I compare Burnt Offerings to The Shining, here.

July, Films Illustrated
This had flack at the time for the bad language - something hard to imagine now. Now it comes over as an honest portrayal of locker room talk. What keeps Slap Shot interesting is the desperate story of the small town ice hockey team mixed with offbeat pre-Animal House humour. It also bears comparison with Parker and Stone's Baseketball

More about Slap Shot here.

July, Films Illustrated
The cast alone makes this worth a watch, not to mention the extensive location work. The massive WWII operation recreated, is undercut by not being famous as anything pivotal in the history of the war. One of many impressively sprawling epics directed by Richard Attenborough.

July, Films Illustrated

Part Two of 1977 is here...

December 21, 2013

Flashback 1977 (part two) - STAR WARS, SORCERER, EXORCIST II...

1977 is spread over two posts because it's too picture-heavy for just one...

August, Film Review
Car Wash is a freewheeling slice-of-life comedy, with a little drama thrown in - a 'day in the life' of the employees and patrons of an L.A. car wash. A few years earlier, this may have been included as blaxploitation because of the mostly black cast, but the comedy and the UK chart invasion by Rose Royce tracks from the soundtrack album made this a mainstream hit. An early film to spawn a tie-in double album of original pop songs.

At the time, audiences found it amusing that Antonio Fargas, Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch was playing an outrageously camp gay guy, and surprised to see Lorraine Gary (fresh from Jaws) in such a small cameo. I had to assume that Richard Pryor was famous, because in 1977 I'd not seen him before. In retrospect, the biggest surprise in the credits is that the script is written by Joel Schumacher, as he transformed from costume designer to scriptwriter, before breaking into directing!

The above publicity shot of most of the cast is on the location where the whole film was shot, but no longer exists. Another Dee Luxe car wash just like it can still be found near Griffith Park.

August, Photoplay Film Monthly
The seventies were very rapey. Rape scenarios were common in adult thrillers and action films, even appearing on movie posters (Jackson County Jail) and exploited as the focal point of the story, as in Lipstick, Straw Dogs, Death Weekend and many more. Even a sci-fi thriller about a woman trapped in an automated house controlled by a sentient computer gets boiled down to this crass tagline for a publicity article.

Julie Christie stars in Demon Seed, directed by Donald Cammell made this rather mainstream thriller in between the more culty, arty, more celebrated Performance and White of the Eye. Fritz Weaver and Gerrit Graham also star.

August, Photoplay Film Monthly
Kirk and Spock in limbo. Nearly ten years after the classic Star Trek TV series had been cancelled, there were various rumours and false starts as a movie or a TV movie. Space wouldn't become cool again until after Star Wars was a hit.

August, Photoplay Film Monthly
Photoplay devoted more and more pages to TV shows. Here's Sally James on the set of London Weekend's Saturday Scene, a bare bones format when ITV and BBC just showed children's programmes for three hours before the sport came on. Saturday Scene had Sally linking and introducing the shows, interviewing pop stars and reading out letters. 

They'd also play movie clips - mostly of The Jungle Book, specifically the song 'Bare Necessities', and the bloody Black Knight fight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail - in fact, I don't think they ever played any other clips besides those! The shows I remember that she introduced were Adam West's Batman and Ron Ely's Tarzan.

Later Sally would then be thrown into a more familiar Saturday morning format - the two-hours of mayhem, music and cream pies that was Tiswas, with its own huge studio and a bloodthirsty audience. 

Just released in the US, here's an early British mention of Star Wars, illustrated by these early, soft-sell publicity photos. This spread (below) is made up of the most familiar, black-and-white images that were first seen from the film.

August, Films and Filming
Star Wars wasn't released until late December.

August, Films and Filming
Here's an advanced photo-spread for William Friedkin's truly epic adventure Sorcerer, which had just clashed with Star Wars in US cinemas, and lost. It wouldn't be released in the UK until the following year, when it also lost half an hour from its running time and was retitled Wages of Fear.

Because it lost money, Sorcerer was then presented poorly on home video, only ever achieving a pan-and-scan release on VHS and DVD. The director publicly tracked down the negative earlier this year and it's been restored for cinema showings and a blu-ray early in 2014.

More about Sorcerer here.

August, Films and Filming
And the disaster movies kept on coming, relentlessly, like a runaway train, rolling towards a rickety bridge, called The Cassandra Crossing. With a bellyload of passengers trapped on board because one of them is carrying an experimental deadly virus. Also on board are Richard Harris, Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner, Martin Sheen, Ann Turkel and Ray Lovelock. Thrills, action, soap, carnage, WW2 history, helicopters and a horror/sci-fi edge in a creepy scene that could have been lifted from The Crazies. Plus a great score by Jerry Goldsmith. This has just been released on blu-ray.

More about The Cassandra Crossing here.

August, Films and Filming
Like Two-Minute Warning and Black Sunday, Rollercoaster was sold as a disaster movie but is really a long police procedural as a race against time. The point-of-view shots onboard some of the biggest rollercoasters of the time are a throwback to Cinerama thrills, with the added dimension of a Sensurround rumble track to save you having to go to a fun fair. The opening carnage where a bomb derails a rollercoaster was vicious at the time, but of course can't compete with Final Destination 3

Still an agreeable thriller, helped by laconic George Segal as the safety inspector battling against a mad bomber and all the proprietors who want to keep their fun fairs open despite the risks.

August, Film Review
While Ray Harryhausen's special effects set a very high standard for children's fantasy entertainment, we were just as happy to watch Doug McClure fight stiff puppet dinosaurs in Edgar Rice Burroughs' adventures produced by Amicus Films. This was the sequel to The Land That Time Forgot

September, Film Review
After the success of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Harryhausen made this third Arabian Nights adventure, Sinbad and the Eye of the TigerCoincidentally, John Wayne's son Patrick starred in both this and People That Time Forgot.  

August, Films and Filming
You see? This looks quite exciting, and the cast was superb for just a sequel (Richard Burton, Louise Fletcher, Max Von Sydow, James Earl Jones). But, John Boorman's Exorcist II: The Heretic was one of the early culprits that gave sequels a bad name.

October, Film Review
I think i saw Exorcist II, then The Exorcist on its five year anniversary re-release. Not the recommended way of seeing them at all.

September, Film Review
Annnnd, the Jaws rip-offs continued blithely on along with many other 'animal attack' movies, until they were swallowed up by outer space. Orca - The Killer Whale was the most expensive movie in the wake of Jaws, Dino De Laurentiis mixing killer killer whales with elements of Moby Dick and Frankenstein. Besides Richard Harris and Charlotte Rampling, Bo Derek makes an early appearance.

September, Photoplay Film Monthly
More Jaws. Roger Moore's third James Bond The Spy Who Loved Me was the biggest summer hit that year. But Roger Moore's Bond films always seemed to be copying other movie trends rather than setting them. While the producers harped on about the huge new soundstage with three submarines parked in it, it wasn't as spectacular as the hollow volcano of You Only Live Twice. But I was sold on the opening skiing action and the three-in-one car chase. 

Note: not many posters refer to "the provinces" any more!

October, Film Review
Win a car like the one in Gone in Sixty Seconds!

1977 was also my first time at the London Film Festival. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre hadn't hit cinemas yet, but here was Tobe Hooper's follow-up, Death Trap (now known as Eaten Alive). It looked pretty cheap on the big screen and got more laughs than screams, especially the wooden crocodile. The setbound swamp sapped its credibility too. I would have gladly swapped seeing this for a screening of Chain Saw.

December, Photoplay Film Monthly
A very advanced publicity shot of Roy Scheider on location shooting Jaws 2, with producers Zanuck and Brown. Not released in the US until the summer of 1978.

December, Evening News
While movie magazines barely had a chance to herald its arrival by the end of the year, Star Wars premiered in London on December 27th (full page advert above) at two of the largest cinemas. The London Evening News ran a five day serialisation of the entire story to whet our appetites. On those pages were also adverts for the only merchandise available at the time - like the soundtrack album (below), the novelisation and the Meco disco remix album.

December, Evening News

Previous magazine flashbacks...

Lawrence of Arabia and more from 1963

Blow Up, The Trip and more from 1967

Barbarella, Witchfinder General and more from 1968

Rosemary's Baby, When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth, Women In Love and more from 1969

M*A*S*H, Myra Breckinridge and more from 1970

The Devils, Deep End, double-bills and more from 1971