look for that Rod Serling biography. I saw a documentary
about the PLANET OF THE APES films (the one that Roddy
McDowell hosted for TCM before he died)a while back.
It mentioned that Serling was replaced as the original
screenwriter on the original APES film because his script
was too expensive to produce on their budget. Serling's
screenplay stayed true to the spirit of Boulle's original
novel, and portrayed a technologically advanced ape
society (helicopters, electricity, modern weapons).
Given the limitations of the budget, the second writing
team pushed the apes back slightly, as horses and simple
rifles were cheaper to film.
Incidentally, I just saw LUNATICS: A LOVE STORY on the
ENCORE network yesterday (all but the first twenty minutes;
I was channel surfing), and I have to say that I really
liked it. It seems to be the most commercial of all
your films, in that the production value indicates studio
backing, however small. Ted Raimi was funny yet sympathetic
in the lead role, and Bruce Campbell can play a total
sleaze better than any actor that I can think of. Too
bad their's no DVD edition of it (hint, hint). Anyway,
it was very good. Now I've seen every one of your films,
except for HAMMER (still checking the mailbox on that
was sent out, so you'll be receiving at any moment.
There was no studio backing on "Lunatics,"
it was independently financed out of Detroit. It was
shot in four weeks in an old elementry school outside
Detroit, and the LA exteriors were all shot in the little
town of Pontiac, MI. Anyway, regarding "Planet
of the Apes," just keep in mind that for Michael
Wilson to have gotten top-billing over Rod Serling,
he undoubtedly wrote more of the script that was finally
shot than Serling did. Michael Wilson was really ten
times the screenwriter Serling ever was. Rod Serling
was great at writing teleplays, but he was never known
for his screenplays, of which he only wrote a few, and
none others nearly as good as "Planet of the Apes."
I always liked "The Man," with James Earl
Jones as the first black president, but it's not a great
script. "Patterns" and "Requiem for a
Heavyweight" are both expanded versions of his
teleplays, and his original western, "Saddle the
Wind," with John Cassavettes just isn't very good.
"Seven Days in May" is probably his best sole
screenwriting credit, and it sticks very close to the
book it's based on.
SPOILER for "If i Had a Hammer" ahead ***
must say I'm a little diappointed at the lack of postings
about "Hammer". I've been giving the movie
a great deal of thought and thought I'd pass a few along.
Naturally, I'll try to frame my comments so as not to
give anything away. That having been said, if others
don't want to know what happens they might skip this
have been postings about irony again, and there is certainly
a great deal of it in "Hammer". The Folkies
reaction to Phil's performance is classic irony, especially
given the allegorical nature of Phil's character. His
statement about his parents accepting everything they're
told and Lorraine's final solution are also highly ironic.
The whole hootenanny is itself ironic; even the sincere
Lorraine is essentially there to applaud her own social
awareness. Phil later comments, "It was a good
crowd." That crowd was there for the express purpose
wonder how many people will mistake the patrons of the
Purple Onion for stereotypes, rather than seeing them
as archetypes? The distinction is fine, but important.
To understand the implications of Phil's decision Sunday
night, one must understand the ediface represented at
the hootenanny, see its supports and therefore it's
use that last line as a segway. I mentioned before that
I was concerned about pacing, and in the other posting
I read it was mentioned as well. I've watched the film
several times now with an eye towards identifying pacing
issues and have a few thoughts. For what its worth,
I approached this from an editorial point of view, understanding
that adding footage wasn't going to happen. Instead
I considered what might be cut to improve pace. I also
know how exposed one becomes when presenting their art
to the public. You seem like you prefer straight, constructive
critique, and my comments are offered in that spirit.
wonder about the extensive shots of the television in
the Buckley's home. I think it enough to know that the
Buckley's watch TV without showing us what they watch.
I realize that the coercive nature of television is
on display, and that people have forgotten the type
of advertisements which were once shown, but shock alone
seems insufficient for the price you pay on pacing.
The numbing and coercive nature of television is pointed
out repeatedly and sufficiently by Lorraine. The Lucy
sound-track, however, reinforces the point while not
interrupting the flow as it is an audio track only.
introduction to the parents seems similarly unnecessary.
You could cut from the brother going off to baseball
directly to Phil's father yelling to Phil to get up.
The initial shot of Phil smoking could also be shortened.
Phil in front of the mirror is what you really want
to show. His mother's reaction in the kitchen, combined
with his father's earlier yelling, certainly sets his
homelife context, a context reinforced later in the
shot where Max approaches the students' office is also
unnecessary, and indeed misleading. Max has a role to
play, but the long shot of him walking sets him up as
more involved in the story than he actually is. I think
the last steps, where he is getting the keys out, would
be enough. A shortened walk would not diminish his value
to the story but would speed the film. There is the
need, of course, to establish the new setting.
think you could begin Lorraine's car trip with her parents
with the line, "And where are we going for lunch,
by the way?" The exchanges which follow describe
her realtionship with her parents and establish the
choices she faces. The scene in front of the SPA office
and the early part of the ride didn't sit well with
me and didn't seem to move the story beyond what the
"And where..." segment accomplished.
scene where Phil passes his family, enduring their questions,
on his way to meet Lorraine is labored. I would cut
from Phil's brother asking:
you suddenly becoming a folkie like Bob Dylan?"
I am and maybe I'm not."
to: "...blowing in the wind." The rest just
night at the Purple Onion is really in stride. This
is the movie I remember. It's also why I suggest so
many edits early. We want to get to this part of the
movie. I don't see the purpose of the cigarette projectile
or the reation to it. To me it was facetious. Otherwise,
I wouldn't touch the evening.
been giving more though to the title concerning the
Beatles. Did you consider a passing car radio with the
deejay saying something like "...They're saying
that Beatles Show on Sullivan was the most watched television
show ever, maybe forever..." Deejays might make
such a comment ahead of actual news reports. Just a
last comment concerns LoDuca's use of jazz in the soundtrack.
Given that the conflict in the movie is represented
by Rock and Folk I would have thought those two forms
would have provided filler. The jazz seemed kitschy
everywhere except in the alley. I may be wrong but I
am under the impression that jazz was in a down period
during the early sixties. For me, the jazz just didn't
I don't know if you've considered a different edit but
those are my thoughts. I look forward to reading your
reaction and that of others who have seen the movie
(Hint!!) Thanks as always,
very pleased you've watched the film several times and
given it this much thought. Of course, I'm not re-editing
at this point (it would add tens of thousands of dollars
to the budget), but your comments are well-taken. I
personally can't get enough of those cigarette commercials.
They are such concrete proof that it was a completely
different world then. The Flintstones selling Winstons.
No wonder I smoke. And Phillip Morris having the audacity
to say their cigarettes are good for you and make you
feel better. Meanwhile, regarding your jazz/score comment,
jazz was very big at that time, and a major influence
on everybody. Although I was quite young at the time,
the early sixties to me sound like Stan Getz in his
Bossa Nova phase. "The Girl From Ipanema"
was the big hit of 1963, and it had nothing to do with
kids. This was the very last time adults controlled
the music market. Joe's idea to do a jazz score to me
is brilliant in that it beautifully and correctly sets
the time period, but, as Joe said "It doesn't take
sides," meaning rock for Phil or folk for Lorraine.
I hope more people will start discussing the film in
greater depth, as you're doing. I still think there's
more going on there than you or anyone else has gotten
SPOILER for "If i Had a Hammer" ahead ***
If I Had a Hammer tonight and thought I'd send in some
thoughts. First of all, I think I'll probably have to
watch it again to catch everything, but I really enjoyed
it the first time around.
Beardslee reminds me of a young Jim Carrey in a way,
i'm sure he gets that alot. The guy just cracked me
up, from his line delivery to the facial expressions.
I think he's really talented, how ironic huh? I found
it interesting how the main character starts out as
sort of a fun idiot that you expect to have that "upward"
character arc, and then as the film progresses you slowly
figure out that he's always gonna be a moron, just perhaps
a more famous moron. Kind of cynical, but I suppose
that was the point.
general I thought the actors did a great job. Perhaps
the weakest link for me was Lorraine, who I thought
did a great job singing but was less engaging to me
in the dramatic stuff, at least in the first half or
so. Maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention, but
for some reason I thought the guy playing Terry was
the guy at the beginning of the film with his beard
shaved to get Lorraine's attention. I suppose the shortish
intellectual in black thing just confused me. Hey, honest
also felt that the section in the middle of the film
at the Purple Onion dragged a little, maybe one or two
performance groups less would have helped, or maybe
if more stuff was happening off the stage. One thing
I noticed in terms of the editing is how straightforward
it was. The entire film felt very traditional to me,
as if it was made 20 years ago. Most movies these days
make me feel like I'm being jerked around by the editor,
so this was refreshing. With the exception of some stuff
around the 55 minute mark, I felt that everything played
out very naturally. On top of that, alot seemed to be
going on in each scene outside of the "text",
which makes me want to see it again just to get everything.
Overall, I really enjoyed it. Some reservations in terms
of the length at the Purple Onion, but thats a relatively
small quibble. I honestly think that if you could somehow
have reworked that middle section you would have an
exceptional film. It felt particularly relevant watching
it tonight, after the tv show American Idol put out
the next big popstar to, I'm sure to major tv ratings.
(I don't watch the show, but I've been told by friends
;-). Anyway, it seems odd to me that the film still
doesn't have distribution yet. Its certainly well-shot,
well-written, and well-acted. Perhaps the pacing in
the middle of the film and the lack of name actors is
the turnoff, which is a shame. I do think its your most
"adult" film yet. Which I suppose is part
of the problem. But hey, looking forward to the next
one, whenever that is.
film seems to be inspiring some interesting reviews,
and to me that's good. I could easily cut out two numbers
at the club, Bobby Lee Baker singing "In My Time
of Dying" and The Four Feathers singing "Darling
Corey," but I like both songs too much to cut them,
and they're both really well-performed. I think David
Zink is rather exceptional as Bobby Lee Baker and I'd
never cut him out. I also think Brett Beardslee is very
talented. I pushed him to be a bit bigger than he thought
he ought to be, but I think it was necessary to believe
isn't strictly movie-related, but I'll ask it anyway.
I've got a couple of ideas for comedy sketches, but
I'm not sure how to write 'em down.
I just use the standard screenplay format of INT. MONASTERY
/ EXT. CORNFIELD, or is there a different format specific
I wanted to add my two cents about the McKenzie Brothers,
which someone posted about recently.
agree with you that they were a pretty low point in
SCTV's history, but I'm not sure that they were meant
to be all that great in the first place.
Dave Thomas' book about SCTV, he explains that the characters
came about when the CRTC (a Canadian federal government
organization similar to the States' FCC) required the
show to have more recognizably Canadian content. That,
by the way, is a relatively big issue up here: the rapidly
growing lack of noticable Canadian content in the media
due to America's cultural smothering, but it's a whole
other thing that I won't get into here.
they told Thomas that SCTV needed more Canadian content,
to which he replied angrily (I'm paraphrasing here),
"What do you want us to do? Sit there wearing parkas
and toques drinking Molson?" The other guy said
"Yeah, that would be fine," and the rest is
history. So it seems to me that the whole thing was
just them doing something quick and cheap to get the
CRTC off their backs, which explains its quality.
Anyway, I've rambled enough. Have a good one.
was a good response to the government. Now I like it
better. But I loved that show, and all of those folks
were at their very best at that time. I think of many
of their skits regularly, like Count Floyd and the Terror,
Horror, Monster Theater, and him always getting boned
and not getting horror films, like "Four for Texas"
("It has a pack of rats. Very scary!") or
anything on their 3-D Theater, like John Candy and Eugene
Levy in "Midnight Cowboy" in 3-D. It was very
funny stuff. As for writing comedy sketches, I guess
you'd use screenplay form. I don't know that there necessarily
is a proper form for them.
just mentioned Steve Martin because the fact popped
into my head. As for what you said about needless plot
turns and padding, it all ties in with what you wrote
in your essay, "Monsterization." Part of it
is inept screenwriting, and part is studio interference.
As for American films that use irony, how about the
original PLANET OF THE APES? Some would argue that it
is really a French work, as Pierre Boulle (BRIDGE ON
THE RIVER KWAI) wrote the original novel. I would disagree,
as the finished film differs sharply from the novel's
original plot. The original screenplay was written by
Rod Serling, a man who definitely understood irony [I
was watching an episode of Biography on him, and learned
of one of his formative experiences that developed his
sense of irony. As a paratrooper in the Phillipines
during WW II, he and his buddy survived the Battle of
Leyte, only for his friend to be killed when an airdropped
crate of rations struck him in the head, breaking his
neck. Now THAT's irony]. Indeed, the final film uses
a different plot line, but retains Boulle's original
irony. What do you think?
a very good biography of Rod Serling called "Rod
Serling: the Dreams and Nightmares of Life in the Twilight
Zone" by Joel Engel, that goes pretty deeply into
his war experiences, which Engel believes (and I do
too) had a lot to do with everything else he did for
the rest of his life. That he was a paratrooper during
WWII, being both short and Jewish, says a lot about
him right away. That entire incident where the guy got
his in the head with parachuted rations is incredible.
Serling and his men were on a march through the jungle,
with no supplies, and were supposed to be resupplied
by air, except that all the planes got bombed the day
after they left. They ended up starving in the jungle
for about a month, eating nothing but insects. That's
why the guy went nuts when the supplies were dropped,
ran out to catch the crate, and got killed. Interestingly,
I think for a writer, Serling would never discuss his
war experiences. As a little note, Serling is second-billed
as screenwriter on "Planet of the Apes," the
top-billed writer is Michael Wilson, who was a far bigger
screenwriter, and won Oscars for "A Place in the
Sun" and posthumously for "Bridge on the River
Kwai" (with Carl Foreman). he was also the first
writer on "Lawrence of Arabia," but was replaced.
And yes, I agree that "Planet of the Apes"
is ironic. Of course, that was during Hollywood's last
Golden Age, between 1967 and 1976, before "Star
Wars" killed Hollywood.
I like your website very much. I must tell youthat I
writea column on movie stars. ISome months ago I wrote
of Olive Borden, and through research read that her
real name was NOT Sybil Tinkle, that it was a case of
misidentity, and no one is sure how it began. Sybil
was a different person who did not enter the movies.
I don't have the information in front of me at the moment.
If I run across it again I will send it to you! Thank
you and continued success for you,
Sybil Tinkle is such a wonderful name. Did you know,
BTW, that the great Luise Rainer is still alive? Winner
of Best Actress in both 1936 and '37. I wonder if she's
the oldest living Oscar-winner?
you should definitely take it as a compliment that I
didn't see the ending coming in either "Hyderabad"
or "Warpath." Both were of course very logical
outcomes, but I think if one is caught up in the story,
one doesn't have time to be thinking far enough ahead
to guess the ending.
know a lot of people would love to see those remaining
Hercules outlines. This has been a great learning experience
for me (and I suspect for many) to see what comes before
a script. It's fascinating, because in some places you
have extensive stretches of dialogue, acting directions,
camera descriptions...and then in other places, you
sum up 10 minutes in one sentence. Really, really enlightening.
I assume "The Journey Begins" ended up as
"The Wrong Path?" And keep looking for an
"Atlas" hard copy, dude. :)
I saw that J. Lee Thompson had passed away recently.
While I was into movies and actors from an early age,
I didn't start reading the credits till I was 13 or
so, and for whatever reason, Thompson was the first
name I ever recognized, other than obvious people like
Disney or Hitchcock. I distinctly remember seeing "Battle
for the Planet of the Apes" and thinking "Hey
- that's the same guy who directed the previous one!"
struck me as no genius, but a competent journeyman who
occasionally struck gold. Any opinions on his work?
hadn't heard that he died. He made three films in a
row that I like quite a lot: "The Guns of Navarone,"
"Cape Fear," and "Taras Bulba."
He also made a film a few years later called "Return
from the Ashes," that I thought was great as a
kid, but I haven't seen since then. He didn't have a
lot of style, but he was very competent.
does one raise money to make a film? Is there any reading
material that you could suggest? I have no experience
in the relm of independant film. I've only worked for
suggestions would be great!
have section on it in my book, "The Complete Guide
to Low-Budget Feature Filmmaking," but alas, it
hasn't yet been published. The first question is, do
you intend to raise the money independently, or from
Hollywood companies? If it's the latter, then you simply
have to take as many meetings as humanly possible and
hope for the best. If it's the former, then you have
to put together a legal offering, either a limited partnership
or a limited liability corporation, and go out and hustle
every person you've ever met in your entire life, and
anybody those people know. It's gruelling, but it does
agree that the original cast of SNL was good (an interesting
note: Steve Martin was NEVER an official member of the
cast. He was only brought in for guest appearances,
and was so good that the producers just kept bringing
him back. The audience saw him so much that they assumed
he was part of the troupe). As for SCTV, my favorite
sketches are the Bob and Doug MacKenzie ones (I have
their movie, STRANGE BREW, but am still looking for
their album, GREAT WHITE NORTH).
Anyway, on to my question. Can you think of any American
films that made good use of irony? It is strange that
Americans don't deal with it well. Pragmaticism was
born here; the "we are here and it is now"
school of thought. Reality is often ironic, so you would
think that the nation that proposed the hard-headed
realist philosophy would embrace the use of irony in
it's art. This however, is not so.
Indeed, the opposite is the case. We flee from harsh
reality in our cinema; our movies inspired the phrase
"the Hollywood ending." Is this because we
embrace reality everyday and thus want to escape from
it in our films, or is it symptomatic of a general refusal
to embrace reality on any and all fronts?
didn't say that Steve Martin was part of the SNL cast,
did I? I don't feel like going back and checking. I
don't think I did. I knew he wasn't. It's funny, but
I thought the MacKenzie bros. were one of the lower
points of SCTV, although still funny. I don't know why
irony is so under-used in American films, but possibly
because American filmmakers seem to put in so little
effort on their screenplays. Irony is a very intelligent,
literate idea that you really can't stumble on, you
have to do it intentionally. Almost everything I see
now, like I just saw "Mulholland Dr.", looks
to me like it was written on the fly. If you just keep
adding pages and pointless plot turns, eventually you'll
have a full-length script -- not a good one, but full-length
one. But good scripts aren't written that way.
do you direct a short film, what steps do you take in
afraid that's a bit too vague of a question. Is there
anything specifically you'd like to know?
would very much like to know where I can find the 1928
movie, Beggars of Life. I have the record and would
very much like to see the movie. Any help would be appreciated.
checked Movies Unlimited, but they didn't have it. I
don't know where you'd get it. I saw "Beggers of
Life" at the silent movie theater in LA in a Louise
Brooks festival. She was good, but Wally Berry was just
a big old ham. So, you have the record for a silent
movie? What's on it?
interesting to know about your involvement in EVIL DEAD
II. It rather reminds me of Bruce Campbell's quip that
he "milked the foot pedal shot" in the final
scene of TSNKE.
I noticed that you liked Monty Python's THE MEANING
OF LIFE, and have to say that I also enjoy Python's
work. My favorite aspect of the their work is the way
that they fearlessly approach the use of irony in their
skits. The largest laugh in THE LIFE OF BRIAN to me
is when Eric Idle tells Brian, crucified, to look on
the bright side of life, and launches into that ridiculously
upbeat song. Or there is the witchcraft test in MONTY
PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (by far the most commercial
of the Python films), where after this ridiculous kangaroo
court trial of the supposed witch, it turns out that
she really IS a witch, and simply says "It's a
fair cop." in total deadpan. That kills me.
Call me unpatriotic, but I still think that Monty Python
is a much better troupe than its American counterpart,
the Saturday Night Live cast. This became apparent on
the episode where the Monty Python players were guests
on SNL, and were in the middle of one of those stupid
skits written for guests of the show. In the middle
of a restaurant scene, John Cleese and Michael Palin
both break character, agree that this is the worst sketch
that either one had been in, and both walk off stage.
I know it's a controversial opinion, and I was wondering
how you felt on the subject. Which is the better troupe:
the Monty Python players, or the Saturday Night Live
don't see SNL like that. For me there was the original
group of those guys, with Belushi, Ackroyd, Radner,
Chase, etc., and I went with through the first few seasons
with them, and the inclusion of Bill Murray, but that
was it. By the time Eddie Murphy joined up I didn't
care anymore. I much preferred Second City TV, with
John Candy, Martin Short, Andrea Martin, Joe Flaherty,
and those folks. But none of these Americans would go
where Python went. The next line in Palin's prayer is,
"Oh, God, forgive us our miserable toadying,"
which just slaughters me.
much do you think "The Biological Clock" would
cost from start to finish? It seems as though it could
be made on a modest budget. Do you have any actors in
mind for the two leads?
this point I don't think I want to make any films for
less than half a million, since I'd want it to be both
SAG and DGA. I've discussed the lead part with Ted Raimi,
who would love to play it. Or you could go with someone
like Kevin Pollack. I've always had Penelope Ann Miller
in mind for Kate.
enjoy your site; I log onto it regularly, along with
Wordplay (which was recommended to me by Steve Sears).
Although I'm not a film-maker, I am a writer. I'm trying
to get myself published. Still, I happen to enjoy anything
creative, and I enjoy films a lot. It's always refershing
to see a different perspective, and you certainly offer
food for thought.
great to see folks like you and Bruce Campbell offering
a realistic perspective on film making, as opposed to
the glamour and glitz bullshit.
what I've read, this business has not exactly been kind
to you (to put it mildly!). Forgive me if this question
has been asked before-but if you knew starting out what
you know now about the business, would you have even
gotten involved with it? If you still decided to get
involved in film, what would you have done differently?
thing-I read the script for RUNNING TIME, and I like
it a lot. I'm going to try and see if I can order a
VHS copy in a couple of weeks. And who knows? I may
even order HAMMER after that.
care-and good luck with whatever projects you take on.
I look forward to seeing more of your work.
for the nice letter. Good question, actually. Would
I still go into the film business knowing how things
have turned out? I don't think I had a choice. Nothing
interests me as much as film. What would I do differently?
Maybe be nicer to Sam Raimi. Just kidding. I don't know.
This seems like my destiny, I don't really question
SPOILER for "If i Had a Hammer" ahead ***
watched If I Had a Hammer last night.
I am a female, I identified with Phil.
I was a teenager, I was a huge fan of Sonny and Cher
and wouldnt miss their TV show for anything. I
wanted to be Cher although I cant sing a note.
In my bedroom, I used to sing Cher songs into an unplugged
old microphone that I found in my grandfathers
belongings after he had died.
family went on vacation to Wisconsin Dells. The family
was going to an amusement park one night. I refused
to leave the motel room that night because the Sonny
and Cher show was on and my mom had a fit. She said,
You can see that show any other week. and
I informed her that I never missed an episode and would
rather watch Sonny and Cher than go to the amusement
park. She then cancelled the plans to go to the amusement
park because she didnt want me staying alone at
the motel. The rest of my family was mad at me.
when Phil stood in his living room thinking about his
choices, I thought Thats me 30 years ago.
Sunday, February 9, 1964, the world changed forever
I thought something happens at that meeting that will
change the world forever. It surprised me what the event
actually was that changed the world forever. I thought
that was cool, I mean tuff.
the credits you thank, Visa, MasterCard and American
Express. Is that because you maxed out your cards making
I too spent a fair amount of time in front of my bedroom
mirror pretending I was on TV, singing songs, doing
commercials, and imitations. And yes, I thanked the
credit card companies for allowing me to max out ten
cards, an American Express card, two MasterCards, and
seven Visas, all with $10,000 limits.
more thing before I forget. Was Phil's last name a homage
to Tim Buckley? Just wondering, I'm a fan of both Tim
and Jeff Buckley.
suppose it was there in my mind, but it wasn't really
SPOILER for "If i Had a Hammer" ahead ***
just finished watching "Hammer" and I enjoyed
it as a whole. How's that for an opening line! Forgive
me, but I do think it has it's problems, but what movie
doesn't. I have seen TSNKE, "Running Time"
and "Lunatics" and I think that "Hammer"
is the weakest one of the lot. In the sense that it
is not as tight as your other films. The pacing really
threw me off. I think it may have been a combination
of the editing and the dialogue. It's not that the pacing
was slow, it just felt awkward. I will have to watch
it again but upon first viewing I felt that the transitions
from scene to scene were just a little off. The lead
actor (Phil) seemed as though he was trying a little
too hard. I had a very difficult time believing his
performance so in turn I had a hard time caring about
his character. In my opinion he spent a lot of time
mugging for the camera. I think his performance needed
to be a bit more subtle. I could have seen Ted Raimi
doing a great job as Phil but I know that he is not
the right age.
actress that played Lorraine turned in a fine performance.
I could buy her as the rich white girl activist. I felt
sorry for her. She really wanted to make a difference
but in the end no one really cared. The strongest performances
came from the bit players. Terry was great! He had a
great look and a great speaking voice. Mustafa was very
effective as was Bobby Lee Baker. These two characters
represented some of the intensity that seemed to surround
the 60's. I felt that Bobby Lee Baker's entrance, performance
and exit was one of the strongest aspects of the film.
It was very nicely executed. The scene with Phil and
Terry getting high behind the club was great. Very funny
and very true to that first smoking experience.
photography and the production value were impressive.
The cars the clothes and the sets seemed (from what
I know about the 60's, I'm only 25) very realistic.
I've seen other films that take place in the 60's which
cost more money and they did not look nearly as good
as "Hammer". The detail in this film was a
great accomplishment. The shots were composed beautifully.
I've noticed this about all of your films. It's a wonder
why you did not become a cinematographer! The look of
the film and the composition are hands down the strongest
aspects of "Hammer", in my opinion. You have
a gift for setting up a shot.
felt as though some of the dialogue was too much telling
and not enough showing. In the beginning right before
Phil's parents are trying to get him out of bed Phil's
Mom tells the audience that he has done nothing since
he got out of High School and that he doesn't care about
anything etc. She told me everything that I needed to
know about Phil in the span of 10 seconds. It felt forced.
I could have figured all of that stuff out about Phil
in the scenes that followed. So much information at
once took me out of the picture
musical performances were very good. I liked the choice
of songs, the performers and the way that the performances
were filmed. The musical numbers are what made the film
unique. You showed the entire performance of each artist
(for the most part) and I really appreciated that as
a viewer. I loved how Phil got more and more nervous
as each act finished. It was a nice juxtaposition to
what was going on on stage. Very well done. I cared
about what was going on in The Purple Onion. Although
I think that the film should have finished before it
did. I think it may have gone on a bit too long after
they all left the club. But I know that you had to show
The Beatles on Ed Sullivan which was awesome! Great
stuff! Who in their right mind would have missed The
Beatles on Ed Sullivan for some stupid meeting? That
is a fantastic idea to build a story around. "Hammer"
was a great commentary on how we all claim to care about
"important" things but in the end we only
really care about ourselves and our own interests. It's
human nature I suppose.
the end the thing that I liked the best about "Hammer"
was the fact that it was a true independent film. You
tackled a risky subject with unknown actors and a small
amount of money. I'm not sure if there are many people
out there who would want to see this film but that's
not your fault. You made the film that you wanted to
make and it has integrity. For lack of a better term
this film has balls and that's a rare thing these days.
I'm glad I kicked in the $20 for the copy. Keep up the
I still think you need to make "The Biological
you for the interesting, thoughtful review, and also
for buying the tape. I'd love to make "Bio,"
go put the money together and we'll do it.
Hi Mr Becker,
hope you are still fighting away at making your movies
your way, I am a big fan of your films Thou Shalt not
kill and Cleveland Smith . Its heartening to hear that
youve not given up for 25 years, Ive only been trying
to get into this game for 15 and theres been many hard
knocks on the way, but reading your journals has really
given me new strength to pursue my endeavers. i just
quit my job, much to everyones disgust, but i dont care,
i want to make my movie and my dream come come just
a little closer to fruitation. Thankyou for your wise
words and support. Keep it up. Never say Die!!!
Just kidding. If I offer a tiny bit of inspiration,
then I'm pleased. Order my film "Hammer" and
see what a real indie film looks like.
looking forward to seeing HAMMER when it shows up.
I just finished watching the EVIL DEAD II special edition
DVD, and I saw that you were listed as one of the Fake
Shemps in the end credits. Just curious, but what was
I just saw another example of the way that we who carry
the name of Darryl are slandered in the movies. In ERASER,
Vanessa Williams' idiot boyfriend (the one who doesn't
get the hint, and is subsequently blown away with that
weird rail gun) is named Darryl. Will this persecution
Ash falls into 1300 AD, it cuts to his POV shot looking
up, and four knight's face's look down, as well as a
wizard. I'm one of those knights, as is Sam, Rob, Scott
Spiegel, and the wizard is Sam's uncle Sid. I'm then
one of the armored knights all over the 1300 sequence,
culminating in the very last shot of the film, when
everyone hails Ash "he who fell from the sky,"
Ash falls to his knees screaming, "NO!", the
camera pulls back as swords are raised, and my hand
is the very final hand and sword that fills the frame
before it cuts to black.
very interested in obtaining a copy of "If I Had
A Hammer", but i'm in Canada, anything we can work
on the main page where it says "International
Customers" and you'll get a United States Postal
Service calculator, put in your locale, and a 12 ounce
package, you'll get the postal rate, then include it
with your $19.95, and either pay with a credit card
with PayPal, or send it to me. It's probably about $4.00-5.00
US to Canada.
SPOILER for "If i Had a Hammer" ahead ***
just finished watching "Hammer". What the
hell are festivals showing that they won't show this?
Out of curiosity I turned to the Independent Movie Channel
when "Hammer" finished. It was showing "Boxing
Helena", a movie which bores the living crap out
have to watch "Hammer" again to critique with
any precision, but I'd like to give my initial impressions.
I know you're going to be inundated with postings for
a while and I won't be offended if your replies are
to comments in general rather than to individuals. So,
on with the show.
enjoyed the movie. There's an awful lot in it. The scenes
with the Buckley family reminded me of the skits on
the old SCTV show with John Candy and company. As I
ponder themes I think of the paradox of childhood's
end. Disillusion is an inevitable part of growing up;
painful but necessary. I like the lack of final resolution.
The film said, "Well, that didn't work" without
a pat answer as to what would.
loved the can opener. I had actually forgotten that
little detail. The opening archival film makes a lot
more sense after having seen the movie (I'm watching
it again). Both Phil and Lorraine are established well.
I appreciate how they have dual motivations; one to
which they cling and one they refuse to acknowledge.
That is true of a great number of the characters. I
suppose Max and Terry are the closest thing to self-aware.
I considered Moustafa, but for all his complaints about
tokens, he's still there. Anyway, the characters grow
but not to an improbable degree.
performances are good, both from the actors and the
musicians. I think the pacing is best in the Purple
Onion. The family scenes were slower, somehow. I did
wonder about the title explaining the significance of
the Beatles' performance on Sullivan. It seemed like
a step outside of the story; maybe a superimposed newspaper
or something like that. Obviously, the result of Beatles
performance on the story is pivotal and must be understood
before the following scene with Lorraine.
going to have to think some more to give anything coherent.
I can't believe nobody wants to show this. This obviously
is not "blockbuster" material but it is interesting
(characters to care about), well made and speaks to
the human condition. Weren't we just discussing this?
Let me give some thought to the pacing. It seemed, in
places, uneven in a way that might put off some viewers.
I don't like being vague so I'll leave it there until
I can better express what I mean.
saw Anita Barone listed in the "Special Thanks".
I'm glad that association remains. You've mentioned
doubts about "Hammer" several times which
I suppose is natural given the lack of a distributor.
But if blind men don't care for your paintings, who
the hell cares?
for the very first review of the film. And thanks for
not slamming me into the dirt. Regarding the superimposed
title about the Ed Sullivan Show, I realize it's a step
back out of the story, but there wouldn't be a newspaper
headline that fast. It was a weird decision, but I went
with it. I'm glad you mentioned the main title sequence,
and how it comes to have meaning over the course of
the film, which was the point. I think possibly one
of the film's problems at this point in time is that
it's working in forms that aren't really in use in America
anymore (although they still are in foreign films),
which is allegory and metaphor. I think maybe no one
wants to have to dig a little bit for the meaning of
things, they want it right there in front of them, which
bores me. Anyway, I'm interested to hear more of your
comments. Thanks for buying it.
REALLY enjoyed reading your screen plays and i was
curious to know if you have any 10-20 min.comedy scripts
for 1 male and 1 female? as i am currently doin my year
12 drama production and my partner and i are finding
it difficult to find the right one..many thanks and
keep up the fantastic work =)
Try pulling a few scenes out of "The Biological
Clock," there are a number of one male and one
female scenes that I think might be fun to perform.
should I say "Mr. Pecker?" Huh huh huh heh
had to get that out of my system. ;)
- I read "Hyderabad." *Exactly* the same reaction
as I had to "Warpath," although I liked "Warpath"
better. Good, old-fashioned yarn. Again, I didn't completely
buy the attraction between the nun and the kidnapper,
but some good close-ups of lingering glances, some more
backstory on her conflicted view of the church, some
good dialogue where they discover they have so much
in common, and all would be resolved. I do still like
the characters in "Warpath" better though,
simply because the bounty hunter and the wife tracking
down the errant husband are technically "good guys"
regardless of their flaws, while the bandit and the
nun who's falling from grace are much less sympathetic,
although as you've mentioned before, one does care about
them. Interestingly, "Warpath" still conjures
up Kerr and Mitchum more, simply because Kerr's nun
was a tough girl as I recall, like the heroine of "Warpath."
thing that struck me was that "Hyderabad"
is really a timeless, placeless story. Perhaps the idolizing
of the fading star, and certainly the little touches
like the cow in the window, are uniquely Indian, but
I kept on thinking that the story could just as easily
be set in the early 1930's in the American Depression.
Same nun helping the poor, same gangsters, same everything
except the Indian location. I'm thinking this is a really
believe it or not - the ending once again surprised
me. The ruse was spelled out, with the gang leader realizing
he could use the church/ransom thing to his advantage,
but I swear I was caught up in the characters, thinking
"will they be able to sustain their relationship?"
when the obvious happened. Not so obvious, I guess.
Both that and "Warpath" made me smack my head
and say "Oh my god! Why didn't I see that? It was
so obvious!" Again, I'm thinking this is a good
what's up with the outhouse? Ewww!)
THANK YOU for posting those old Xena/Herc treatments.
Both would have fit nicely into the first seasons of
each show, especially the Herc one. *Such* a cool, but
simple, but cool notion. I was picturing someone like
Kim Michaelis or Angie Dotchin as Iolaus's girlfriend
of the day. And your initial version of "Shark
Island" was infinitely better than the final version,
although I did like the whole sequence of Xena in the
rain burying the dead girl. (I swear, that scene was
a 60-second version of the whole Xena finale. I kept
on thinking "durn - this ep is like the old rain
scene from Locked Up!")
- any chance of seeing "Hercules vs. Atlas?"
take it as a compliment that you didn't see the ending
coming on either "Warpath" or "Hyderabad,"
yet I believe they're both perfect logical endings that
fit the stories. And don't call me Pecker. I only have
"Hercules vs. Atlas" as a notepad file, and
it will only open filled with garbage. I can't seem
to find a hard copy. I have a few more Hercules outlines
here, the original, very first Hercules outline, that
ended up somewhat as "The Journey Begins,"
and I have "Hercules and the Slave Girl,"
which ended up as "Path to Freedom" with Lucy
Lu. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed the ones posted. Shirley
said you would.
outta curiosity, what is your favorite line from a comedy
film. Mine's got to be Leslie Nelson in Airplane; "Shirly
you can't be serious!"
"I am serious. And don't call me shirly."
Just the way he says it with such ease is still hilarious
every viewing. Nelson was by far one of the funniest
physical comical actors of the time. It's too bad he's
stuck with direct-to-video Disney schlock-it's just
a waste of talent.
By the way, do all copies of IIHAH come signed by the
great Josh Becker himself??
they do. However, since I was unable to get the great
Josh Becker to do it, I'm doing it myself. The comedy
lines that jump to my mind immediately is the prayer
Michael Palin gives in the boy's school in "Meaning
of Life"--"Oh God, you are so big, so absolutely
huge, you're super. All we can say, God, is we're really
impressed down here."
my copy of "If I Had a Hammer" today; and
you signed it. Cool!
will watch it this weekend.
at Beckerfilms deliver for you.
been out of the loop for a few days, having gone to
Kentucky on a road trip (and I now owe $179 to the Commonwealth
of Pennsylvania; they disagreed with my view that 87
mph in a 55 zone is not excessive). We went to Fort
Knox to see the General Patton Armor museum (my buddy
Derek is a wee bit obsessed with tanks). Kind of like
your story "Fear and Loathing on I-10" without
the cocaine (I did develop a strange addiction to White
Castle cheeseburgers while I was there, though).
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I ordered
"If I had a Hammer," and that the check and
SASE should be reaching you shortly (I sent them priority
mail). One more for the cause.
although I've moved beyond the SASE concept and for
a mere $3.00 P&H I'll send them out. I hope you
very interested in ordering "If I had a hammer".
As the other guy from Sweden I live overseas (Germany).
Could you please tell me how much the shipping will
be (airmail preferred)? I cannot wait watching "Hammer"
since I enjoyed all the other movies you made!
the webmaster, has a method for calculating overseas
postage, and she will assist you in this endeavor. It's
NTSC, so I hope that's not a problem in your neck of
the woods. [follow this
Parent's credit card, huh? And I used my own. At least
I laughed once today.
strive to amuse.
Hello Mr. Pecker,
have some questions for you. I dont understand how you
make such dull films. I mean I hear TSNKE is not to
bad but making movies like "I had a hammer"
I mean no offense but dont you think you could come
up with something a little more creative than that.
I mean you have worked with Sam Raimi and he made The
Evil Dead so I would think some of his creativity would
wear off on you. I sure hope that in the future as you
slowly become more expierienced that you will eventually
have a succesfull movie. Good luck Joshua.
can you comment on a film you clearly haven't seen?
That's pretty foolish.
am considering a career in film making or directing
when I'm slightly older, I'm only 17 at the moment,
and I was curious to know if you have any advice to
how I could pursuit my chosen career.
I do. Borrow your parents' credit card and buy a copy
of "If I Had a Hammer," then study it very
carefully. Report back.
this has me completely appaled. Guy Ritchie is making
a remake of "Swept Away". I've never seen
this movie, so that's not why I'm appalled. What gets
me is why he's remaking the movie. Here's what he said:
the time the film had finished, I said, 'Someone's got
to remake this movie.' I liked the edge of it. The passion.
And Madonna said, 'Why don't you remake it?' I said,
'Well, why don't you be in it?' She went, 'All right,'
and that was that."
don't like remakes in the first place, but when people
are remaking movies they already consider good, what's
the point? Well, okay. The point is most probably a
bigger bank account.
seriously, what is this world coming to when a writer/director
sees something he likes and decides the next step is
to blatantly rip it off? It just boggles my mind wondering
how that's even a legitimate option.
not really a question for you, I just had to vent, and
none of my friends seem to want to discuss movies anymore.
So here's a question:
you think there's ever a good reason to remake a movie?
My thought is that once it's in a visual medium already,
it's off limits. That leaves open books, and short stories,
but other movies and televsion shows are off limits.
with you. I hate remakes. If someone decides to do a
remake they've automatically thrown in the towel on
originality, and once you begin with such a bogus intention,
it can only get worse from there on out. As William
Goldman said, and I enjoy the coarseness of the observation,
remakes and sequels are "whore's films," madely
strictly for money and no other reason.
just a little puzzled. In reading your responses to
various movie titles ("What did you think about
...") you often list the objection that you didn't
care about the main character(s). Yet in your own work
you make extensive use of characters who are apathetic
or anti-social or self-destructive. I just read "Oh,
Really" and the young man, whose name has escaped
me, was a character with whom it is very difficult to
sympathize. Ravi and the nun (I can't think of her name
just now either) acted upon fairly base, ill-considered
motives; again not individuals to care much about. Their
circumstances, however, were interesting. I can't really
think of any of your characters who would make good
course, good neighbors generally make lousy characters,
and where character flaws impel the story they are certainly
appropriate. We are, after all, most human in our flaws
and all good stories speak to our humanity. But your
writings seem to confirm that one need not sympathize
with a character in order to empathize with him. Again,
I wouldn't mention it except for your own recurring
objections to characters about whom you do not care.
I was just wanting your thoughts on this, seeming, contradiction
between your reviews and your own work.
think it's a good question. Let's use "Monster's
Ball" as an example. I didn't really like Halle
Berry or Billy Bob Thornton's characters -- both of
them have somewhat crappy relationships with their sons
and don't treat them well -- but I cared about both
of them. I think there's a world of difference between
liking characters and caring about them. Hollywood is
very concerned that characters be "likable,"
and it comes up all the time. I shot a variety of scenes
for the Hercules front titles, that were thankfully
not used, of him picking up cute children and hugging
them because the producers were desperate that he be
likable. I don't think it matters at all. The key concerns
to me are believability and do I care. If I can believe
the situation, and care about the characters, I can
have fun. As another example, I just watched "Mulholland
Dr." and I didn't care about any of the characters,
and therefore I didn't care about the movie. I think
the lead girl was supposed to be likable, but I neither
cared nor believed her. This is probably the most difficult
aspect of screenwriting.