Magnificent Vengeance (1989)
Piranha 3: Contract on Fulton (1995)
Kiss Me Before I Melt (1993)
What about Terry Sweeney and Julia Sweeney, together at last, in The Buswomen of Pittsburgh?
Ah, yes, a tardy follow up to Mr. Smithee's trailblazing and tersely-titled Buswomen (1962). And that eternal moment when first we see Beverly Garland, Marian Carr and Collen Gray in the title role, towering over puny Santa Monica Blvd, their bodies now twenty-foot-tall RTD buses with headlights glaring through their angora sweaters in place of breasts nay, in a radical juxtaposition of the machine aesthetic against the post-war sylvan cityscape; one shudders with forbidden pleasure at that sequence of diamond-clear inspiration.
I agree! And what about Buswomen: The Chop Shop Models with a sadly overlooked performance by Tura Satana as Cactus Rose the white slaver!
Yes! And John Saxon's fine turn as Rolfe, was, in my opinion, definitive. Fuck what Kael says!
Hell, Kael digs DePalma. And how does Dressed to Kill compare to Killer in a Dress (1974)? Damned poorly, I think. Another fine turn by Saxon in that one this time as a knife-wielding cross-dresser.
(Remarking on a Whitney Houston video credited to Smithee) ...Another missed opportunity, that. I have a good source that tells me that the ever inventive Smithee, while toiling in the video fields, was still struck by that inspiration that is Smithee. We are talking far beyond high concept here: it was Smithee's idea that, instead of the usual Houston vid connected with a scknooky film, he do something...special. Mainly, he wanted to erase her voice, and dub it with Laura Branagin. And as if that were not inspiration enough, he then planned to intercut Whitney's shots with stock footage of elephants in rut he'd used in 1963's Mudwomen of Zimbabwe.
Wow, GZ, I'd forgotten that one! Here's what my October '95 copy of The Alan Smithee Newsletter says:
Mudwomen of Zimbabwe (1963)
and who can forget the scene where barbara steele, as magee's sex-starved young wife, falls under the influence of the sinister witch doctor (eduardo cianelli in blackface)? i always thought it was a shame that smithee in his later years has tended toward impersonal studio projects like his remake of david lynch's Dune...
That was an embarrassment. I understand that Smithee was paid for the Dune remake with stock shares in Spice Snak candies. We all remember what happened with that product tie-in...
but the gummy sandworms could have succeeded, if only they were introduced earlier and used the now popular white sugar instead of brown...
It's so hard to pick, but I think you're neglecting a short-lived but important interlude in his career. I'm speaking of course of Smithee's Macbeth, which had a brief run at the Thalia in 1977. Yvonne de Carlo played Lady MacBeth, Juliet Lewis in her first screen appearance played the baby she dashed against the wall in a magnificent splatter sequence (and I think it explains a lot that Lewis performed her own stunts), and the ever-popular Smithee staples Patrick McGoohan as MacBeth, and John Saxon in a virtuoso turn, playing several supporting roles. The film was further distinguished by its casting of Michael MacLiammoir, who had starred in Orson Welles' Othello and made something of a comeback in What's the Matter with Helen? (1971).
Smithee intended to out-Welles Welles, asking the cast to deliver their lines in unintelligible Scottish accents, and it really worked magnificently. He also adopted a monochromatic red color scheme for the film that is nothing if not creepy, although the colors have already faded and all the prints you see now (and they don't pop up much, maybe on late night tv once in a while, I hear William K. Everson has 15 prints) look like they've been dipped in red clay. His most scholarly and, I think, most affecting effort. Yvonne de Carlo breaks your heart, she really does. It is, at the core, a love story.
Indeed. When Smithee's work breaks one's heart, it stays broken. I bow to the fine scholarship of Ms. Graham in regards to this criminally neglected, and so often imitated work.
Smithee's Ealing productions Mrs. Evans' Blepharoplasty (1952) and Don't I Know It! (1954) featured cameos from the young Peter Sellers and the even younger Paul & Mike McCartney as tap dancing Siamese twins and their wacky surgeon father (MEB) and Sellers again as a dustman with a very peculiar problem (DIKI). Musical sequences featuring the harmonica of Goon Show regular Ray Ellington were supposed to draw in the crowds, but people were just not in a movie mood in England in those years.
one is rarely in the mood for a smithee film, and when one is, the matter is probably best taken care of either through strong medication or the brief application of a large mallet.
Regarding the Smithee Ealing films, I recall that even more of a thud resounded with The Wrong Widgit (1955), the caper comedy with Herbert Lom in eight roles.
Smithee's free adaptation of Alice in Wonderland (1967) is another interesting case from the British period. One couldn't ask for a better cast: Julie Christie in the title role, James Fox and Dirk Bogarde as the March Hare and the Mad Hatter, Ruth Gordon as the Queen of Hearts, Mick Jagger as the Mock Turtle; but everyone just looks confused. The director's continual references to '60s London culture day-glo set design, marijuana at the tea party, "light show" effects during Christie's shrinking/growing scenes, the Queen's soldiers as fascist thugs in playing-card motifed police uniforms grow tiresome after 30 minutes. This initially was to be a Joseph Losey project what a different film that would have been.
And what a different film Norman Jewison's Jesus Christ Superstar was from Smithee's Christian-musical-bandwagon-jumping-ripoff effort of the following year (1974), The Voice of One Crying in the Desert: John the Jazzman Baptist, starring Ben Vereen. I'll go ahead and post the lyrics of the title song (no one took credit for the music and lyrics of course, and it was thought to have been taken from Andrew Lloyd Weber's wastebasket by Smithee's assistant while Weber was writing Superstar) to save you the trouble I think we've all had them stuck in our heads at inopportune moments.
Predictably, Maltin gives it one star and calls it "turgid," but he's overlooking scenes that are downright visionary. I'm referring of course to the dream sequences in which John the Jazzman discusses man's future with a brontosaur, and another in which he sings a searching duet with Charles Darwin (John Gielgud) about doubting creationism. If the '70s was the decade that made a hippie of Jesus, Smithee was the iconoclast who asked broader theological and philosophical questions. And without losing one iota of entertainment value. I'm with Kael on this one anyway she called it "a valentine to the New Testament."
My God I'd forgotten entirely about John the Jazzman Baptist. There are treasures here.
Smithee and Kael had a thing going for a while. The "dea-ex-machina" character in Hercules vs the Raftmen (Cinecitta, 1966), who delivers the magic scroll to Hercules (not Steve Reeves in this one...it was Harryhausen lead Kerwin Matthews), was not only based on Kael, but was named "K-El."
Godard is a big Smithee fan. I have to plow through my old Film Structuralism course notes, but I'll post an article I had to read on this stuff; at least as much as "fair use" dictates.
Great perhaps this can shed some light on the story about how Smithee and Sam Fuller almost acted together in the same Godard film.
Speaking of Smithee's unfortunately truncated days at Cinecitta (something to do with goats, lies all), there is a persistent rumor in the higher echelons of film academia that The Man once was poised to co-helm a feature with legendary horror stylist, Mario Bava. The film, according to sources, was to be called Planet of Hercules, with Joseph Cotton as all the Greek Gods (!), Bobby Darin as Hercules, and Barbara Steele as Susie.
i believe the two had a falling out over some disparaging remarks smithee made about bava's intricately expressionistic coloured lighting schemes and about the local cuisine. as a perfectionist, bava was more than willing to listen to criticisms about the former, but as an italian, he was not about to tolerate insults about the latter.
to this day, as a result, smithee still walks with a slight limp.
oh, and as to why he did not appear in Pierrot le Fou: smithee answered that question in an interview, saying "have you ever tried reading a paris subway map? the goddamn things are in French!"
...i'm glad to find a specific cite for smithee's remark about "fresh nun footage," which really gives one an insight into such scenes as betty page's cameo as sister felicity in Death in the Cheap Seats (1958), and clu gulager's vision of st. catherine (drew barrymore) in Return of Satan's Cheerleaders (1991) not to mention the mysteriously interpolated stock footage of penguins in the phillipines-set ww2 horror classic Flesh Eaters of Bataan (1967), one of the highlights of smithee's too-vain-to-wear-glasses period.
Too vain, x. trapnel, or too frightened? Smithee's relationship to eyeglasses is odd indeed. Just look at his use of eyeglasses as a symbol of death in Eyes of the Strangler (1965) in which the sunlight's glint from the murderous Rod Steiger's glasses cuts through the blackness of Sandy Dennis's hiding place; in Big Bust on Prince Street (1966) with its climatic shootout between Broderick Crawford and Akim Tamiroff in the optometrist's office; and especially in Defenestrators from Mars (1967) wherein Earth is destroyed by invaders concentrating the sun's rays through a gigantic crystal lens. And what of the director's policy during the '60s, banning eyeglasses from the sets of all Smithee productions?
Yet another mildewed geegaw from the cluttered basement that is Smithee.
smithee is a complex and tortured individual second-guessing his motivations is indeed a risky business.
...and let us not forget Smithee's radical version of King Lear, starring Jerry Lewis in a dual role as Edward and the Fool. Maybe Jer thought he was reprising his split-personality number in The Nutty Professor, but Smithee coaxed the Frogs' Fave into depths of characterization that he would not approach again until Scorsese's The King of Comedy. When Jerry, as the Fool, says, "Gosh, Mr. Lear. That Reagan!! She took away you your knights...and everything!" one at last realizes the elemental pathos of Lear's situation.
The film's only drawback is that Jerry eclipses Keenan Wynn's more stolid Lear, who does more slow-burn fuming than actual ranting. (Granted, too, Wynn seems to be reprising his star turn in the legendary Shack Out on 101). Mamie Van Doren holds her own as Goneril though by always shooting her from below, Smithee gives her breasts the appearance of seige weapons. And Barbara Steele gives a soupçon of authentic English grandeur to Cordelia, particularly during her death-by-flaying scene. Once again, Smithee proves himself equal to the most demanding material, deviating from the strictures of mere fidelity in order to rediscover the bleak heart of Shakespeare's vision.
Yes! Exceptional observations, Mr. Shakti.
Tonight, I had the unique experience of viewing a little-known Smithee opus: WHA?
A fascinating effort, WHA? is deftly edited from five films with expired copyrights: Murder by Television, Gung Ho, The Fatal Glass of Beer, Night of the Living Dead, and It's a Wonderful Life. Smithee, apparently inspired by these titles turning up again and again in cheap video reissues, saw his opportunity and seized it.
The result is the tale of mad scientist Bela Lugosi creating an army of flesh-eating zombies which attack Randolph Scott and his crack team of American fighting men during the bloody Pacific Campaign of World War II. The suspense mounts and the body count climbs, when suddenly Jimmy Stewart awakes from this dream granted him by his besotted-but-good-natured guardian angel (W.C. Fields), which shows Jimmy what would have happened to his sleepy home town if he had moved to the Yukon those long years ago.
Certainly the juxtapositions are a bit jarring, but the resourcefulness and audacity evidenced by WHA? are inspiring. And who could forget the final confrontation between Fields and Lugosi as they struggle to win the soul of Duane Jones?
I will remember it whenever I see a video priced $7.99.
And I'll bet the heathens at Blockbuster or the other chains don't carry it at any price. Again, we shall be forced to search the dank back alleys of video distribution to find the legacy that is ours.
Smithee pages edited and designed by Jon Keith Brunelle (Al Dekker)
Portrait of Alan Smithee by Henry Lowengard (nemo)