Category Archives: Film

“ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES”— “You can’t run! You can’t swim! There’s nowhere to hide!”

 

“ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES”

“You can’t run! You can’t swim! There’s nowhere to hide!”

Amos Lassen

I happen to love this movie and think that it is very witty, clever and silly. I believe that is was meant to be spoof on horror films and not meant to be taken seriously and though it does not work all the time, it still fun. Unfortunately, it has ruined by appetite for shakshuka.

The entire plot is right here in the title. Killer tomatoes attack and that’s about it.  Oh yes, people try to stop the attack. This is a director’s cut which includes a long prologue about the cult status of the film there is even a running commentary throughout the film in which the director makes comments on the movie itself.  Unlike other horror movies, there is no gore aside from crushed tomatoes and a few people dying. The film is made up of lots of loosely-tied comedy sketches held-together around the idea of killer tomatoes. Political correctness was thrown out of the window while this was being made just as it was when “Blazing Saddles” was filmed. The difference is that today, one could never make “Blazing Saddles” because the humor in it would be considered politically offensive. Killer tomatoes do not deal with race or gas so it is relatively tame in comparison but then there is no comparison if Mel Brooks is involved.

There is a scene involving a Japanese scientist that contains dialogue which is highly offensive, to say the least.  Yet, most of the dialogue is sharp and funny. The film has achieved cult status.

Tomatoes have turned evil and are eating people. Jim Richardson (George Wilson) is charged to stop this menace and so brings in Mason Dixon (David Miller) and his team, led by Lt. Wilbur Finletter (Rock Peace), to handle the situation. Cub reporter Lois Fairchild (Sharon Taylor) gets involved trying to warn the public about the horrors, but instead becomes a part of everything.

There are plenty of groaners and that’s the point of the film—it’s meant to be dumb and it’s meant to be bad.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of film (1.85:1)
  • Original 2.0 Mono Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  • Audio commentary from writer/director John DeBello, writer/co-star Steve Peace and “creator” Costa Dillon
  • Deleted scenes (SD)
  • Six exclusive featurettes:

–        “Legacy of a Legend” (14:13, SD) is a collection of interviews, including comments from John DeBello, Costa Dillon, film critic Kevin Thomas, fans Kevin Sharp and Bruce Vilanch, future Tomatoes mainstay John Astin and actors Steve Peace, Jack Riley, and D.J. Sullivan

–        “Crash and Burn” (3:40, SD) is a discussion about the famous helicopter crash that could have killed everyone because the pilot was late on his cue

–        “Famous Foul” (2:21, SD) is about the San Diego Chicken and his role in the climatic tomato stomping ending

–        “Killer Tomatomania” (4:33, SD) is a smattering of interviews with random people on the streets of Hollywood about the movie

–        “Where Are They Now?” (2:51, SD) fills viewers in on what the cast and crew have been up to over the past couple of decades

–        “We Told You So!” (3:07, SD) takes a hard-hitting look at the conspiracy of silence surrounding the real-life horror of killer tomatoes

  • “Do They Accept Traveler’s Checks in Babusuland” (the original 8mm short that inspired Attack of the Killer Tomatoes) (with optional audio commentary) (SD)
  • Original theatrical trailer (SD)
  • Radio spots
  • Collectible poster

“32 PILLS: MY SISTER’S SUICIDE”— A Personal Documentary

 

“32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide”

A Personal Documentary

Amos Lassen

The tragic death of her sister was Hope Litoff’s catalyst for the personal documentary “32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide.” Litoff was hoping to find some inner peace while making the film but found herself confronting issues of guilt, denial and addiction.

Near the end of 2008 photographer Ruth Litoff was found in her Manhattan loft, having finally “succeeded” after 20 or more suicide attempts over many years. The police who went to the scene said that the entire apartment was meticulously prepared for the event, with notes, presents, etc. and with instructions for disbursement to various friends and family. A few days earlier, Ruth decorated her Manhattan loft like a beautiful stage set with fifteen suicide notes surrounding her and specially selected gifts for her closest friends. Multiple bowls of cat food were left in case it took awhile to find her.

The film begins on the day that Hope found Ruth dead and it then traces over her fascinating life and work with the highs and the lows and the secrets and the lies. It follows Hope’s journey examining her sister’s rich body of artwork, interviewing friends and family, and reading her journals for the very first time. Ruth excelled at everything she so the reason for her taking her own life was a mystery.  Making the film forced Hope to face difficult truths and caused her to drink again after 16 years of sobriety.

Ruth was a complex person who was sometimes dark yet brilliant and Hope wanted this to come through in the movie. Her story is told through interviews with friends and individuals who came to know her in life and through her death.  Ruth was incredibly dynamic and her creative mind was never still.  She was sexual, never without a boyfriend, and took nude photos of every one she ever had. She struggled and was desperate to understand who she was, and took hundreds of self-portraits that alternated between pride and self-loathing. While photography was her main medium but she also created collages, drawings, wry cartoons and videos and even her many suicide attempts were documented. These are revealing and capture her inner world.

This film is Hope’s effort to know and accept Ruth in death in a way that she was never able to in life and to learn to live with the pain of losing her.

Ruth was a, high-achieving role model who began turning into an over-dependent problem at a young age. Her first suicide attempt came at 13 and she was eventually diagnosed as bipolar, though in retrospect Hope thinks that borderline personality disorder might have been her condition. She had severe mood swings, depression bouts and ideas of suicide that caused broken relationships and other external upheavals.

Both girls reacted to their affluent parents’ crumbling marriage: Hope escaped into recreational drugs and blackout drinking from early adolescence. Even before Hope started drinking again, her husband, Todd, worried that she won’t be able to handle the emotions.

We see that Hope may have laid Ruth to rest at last to a degree, but her own issues will be with her for a long time. The film is emotionally powerful and is difficult watch. It speaks deeply to those who have struggled with depression or addiction or loved anyone who has.

“D.O.A.: A RIGHT OF PASSAGE”— The Sex Pistols

“D.O.A.: A RIGHT OF PASSAGE”

The Sex Pistols

Amos Lassen

Lech Kowalski’s “D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage” is an American’s take on this seminal English punk band’s only U.S. tour that shows the significance of the Sex Pistols. It is filled with fiery energy and you-are-there immediacy.

The film includes galvanizing concert footage, often with subtitled lyrics. If you’ve managed to forget how ferociously powerful the Pistols’ music was and still is, “D.O.A.” is an excellent reminder. Johnny Rotten lurches theatrically all over the stage seeming to stare right into the camera. That same camera also alights on audience members with spiked hair and heavy makeup, and he interviews enthusiastic onlookers as well as outraged attendees and Bible-wielding protestors. The Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren reportedly booked the band into venues that he knew would be problematic and Kowalski captures the fraught energy of this tour-cum-suicide mission.

In addition to the footage of the Sex Pistols in the U.S., Kowalski gives us interviews and performances from other punks back in Britain. Other performers include The Dead Boys, Sham 69, and ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock tearing through “Pretty Vacant” with his new band, The Rich Kids. Some of this may be tangential to the Sex Pistols and their tour, but it helps to paint a picture of the era, and it’s exciting to watch.

D.O.A. isn’t simply a celebration of punk rock. It is impossible to ignore the evidence of Sid Vicious’ heroin addiction and increasingly self-destructive behavior. We see him bleeding onstage and there’s a moment outside of one of the venues where he has to be guided in the direction of the door.

Kowalski’s infamous interview with Sid and Nancy is here, too. The pair of them lay in bed, with Sid barely able to keep his eyes open, and struggling even more mightily to offer coherent answers to Kowalski’s questions. “D.O.A.” was released less than two years after Nancy’s murder and Sid’s arrest for the crime and subsequent fatal overdose, and the freshness of the tragedies makes a profound contribution.

 The film is probably closer than punk fans might want it to be. ”D.O.A.,” intends to be outrageous and is mostly ugly and sad while giving the impression that punk is as misunderstood by those who like it as by those who don’t. The music, which is not particularly well represented here is less arresting than the atmosphere that surrounds it. The Sex Pistols come across as the real thing

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the main feature.
  • Original 2.0 Mono Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  • “Dead On Arrival: The Punk Documentary That Almost Never Was” – A feature length documentary about the making of O.A. A Rite of Passage produced by award-winning filmmaker (and former MTV Senior Producer) Richard Schenkman and featuring exclusive new interviews with PUNK magazine founder and Ramones cover-artist John Holmstrom, renowned music journalist Chris Salewicz, legendary photographer Roberta Bayley, Sex Pistols’ historian Mick O’Shea, former Rich Kid guitarist and Ultravox lead singer Midge Ure, and original D.O.A. crew members David King, Mary Killen, Rufus Standefer, plus never-before-seen interview footage of Pistols founder, Malcolm McLaren. (HD)
  • 12 page booklet with liner notes written by John Holmstrom, founding editor of PUNK Magazine
  • Reversible artwork
  • Rare Sex Pistols Photo Gallery
  • 2-Sided Poster included
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (3:48, SD)

“NOW MORE THAN EVER: THE HISTORY OF CHICAGO”— 50 Years

“Now More Than Ever: The History Of Chicago”

50 Years

Amos Lassen

Directed and edited by Peter Pardini, “Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago” is a look at one of American music’s most popular and enduring bands from their groundbreaking blend of jazz, rock, and pop that made them big in the 1970s to becoming one of the most vital and popular touring acts for nearly thirty years. We see the many highs and lows the band went through from death of founding guitarist/vocalist Terry Kath in early 1978 to the many changes the band had to endure and keep up with trends. The result is a fun and adventurous film about one of the most popular bands in American music.

From the time that the band was formed in the ‘60s to being inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2016, Chicago has sold more than 100 million albums with a lot of hit singles from the 1970s and the 1980s. From the 1990s and into the 21st Century, they’ve become a popular live staple playing 100 shows a year and they on despite line-up changes and such. The core of the group are its four remaining original members in vocalist/keyboardist Robert Lamm, trumpeter Lee Loughnane, trombonist James Pankow, and woodwind player Walter Parazaider. The four along with original drummer Danny Seraphine talk about the band’s history through the many trials and tribulations they endured as it began in 1967 in Chicago with those five men and a guitarist/vocalist in Terry Kath as they were part of an early version of the band but then changed its name at the time to the Chicago Transit Authority that included bassist/vocalist Peter Cetera.

The classic original lineup of Cetera, Kath, Lamm, Loughnane, Pankow, Parazaider, and Seraphine had numerous hits starting with their 1969 debut album as they were guided by manager/producer James William Guercio (who declined to be interviewed for the film along with Cetera and other former members in guitarist/vocalist Donnie Dacus and vocalist/keyboardist Bill Champlin). There are many stories the band talk about including the legendary story of Jimi Hendrix telling the band that Kath is a better guitarist than he is along with other events that happened on the road.

Pardini uses a lot of archival footage of the band through from the 1970s as it showcases their rise to stardom and we see that the band members love life on the road. Kath’s death remains something that haunts the band to this day yet they keep going in his honor. We learn that Seraphine’s departure from relates to not just his own frustrations of trying to keep up with current technology but also his focus on the business side of the band. Both Seraphine and the band admitted that the way they parted wasn’t in the best of terms though both were able to reconcile as Seraphine did get to play with the band for the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2016. We see many aspects of the band’s rich history as told by the band as well as longtime fan and actor Joe Mantegna who recalls moments of the band’s early history.

There are some very interesting accounts here about what overwhelming success can mean. The founding members who are all up there in years now, seem genuinely moved that their efforts have been so appreciated by so many for so long, and as is shown The band still sounds fantastic, even with a revolving door of personnel changes.

Special Features and Extras include:

 

  • Featurettes
  • Dialogue (1080p; 37:14) is an addendum of sorts to the main documentary providing more background information on the band courtesy of some longer interview segments.

 

  • The New Guys (1080p; 25:46) focuses on newer band members.

 

  • Deleted Scenes
  • New Music and Paris (720p; 2:22)

 

  • Only the Beginning (720p; 2:15)

 

  • Concert – Two Weeks in May (1080p; 34:13) was filmed over 12 days in 2013.

 

  • Stories
  • Robert Lamm – Becoming a Musician (1080p; 2:04)

 

  • Private Planes Continued (1080p; 3:32)

 

  • Jimmy Pankow – Helicopters in NYC (1080p; 4:14)

 

  • Going on SNL in 1979 (1080p; 1:42)

 

  • The Writing of Making a Man out of Me (1080p; 3:32)

 

  • Hall of Fame Rehearsal (1080p; 1:40)

“SLEEPING GIANT”— The Ugly Side of Adolescence

“SLEEPING GIANT”

The Ugly Side of Adolescence

Amos Lassen

Over the course of an emotionally tumultuous summer, a trio of teenage boys hang out constantly, but unease is quickly building. They go skateboarding and cliff diving. They drink, smoke weed and set off fireworks with little regard for their safety, but eventually their personality differences cause major rifts. Adam (Jackson Martin) comes from a well-off family, but his world is thrown out of alignment when he learns that his dad is cheating on his mom and by the arrival of a girl he has a crush on. Nate (Nick Serino) is a troubled kid living with his grandmother. He constantly teases his friends in the meanest possible ways, not caring what anyone thinks of him. Riley (Reece Moffett) is sweet natured and has come to stay with cousin Nate following a family tragedy, and he’s torn between wanting Adam’s seemingly idyllic life and Nate’s devil-may-care attitude and being his own person.

The film is a near-perfect depiction of the most awkward part of adolescence: the point where you realize your friends can betray you and let you down. This is an observation of friendships made of convenience. We get an idea that Adam, Nate and Riley would never be friends in a larger community, but in a smaller area with less to do, they have little choice. They make the most of things while they can, but after a few weeks together they appear to be going through the motions because there aren’t other options. Adam will slowly realize his dark side. Nate will double down on his nastiness. Riley will slip up and do bad things, but by the end he’ll be the most heroic and likable of the bunch. They’re teens that think they know everything about their world until they’re forced into dealing with adult problems and then they lash out from fear.

Most young men wouldn’t admit this was their childhood, but in the parts of their memory they don’t often like to access, they know it to be true. If they weren’t one of these main characters, they knew them. That’s not to say that Adam, Nate and Riley are archetypes.

The three leads all give fully realized and shockingly mature performances. The first half of the film sets up the teens as individuals and a unit; the second half employs a number of shocking, necessary and earned twists. It builds to a pair of scenes (a breakdown at family board game night and a dangerous dare between friends).

Director Andrew Cividino wastes little time with extended character introductions. Although there are moments of humor, loyalty, and tenderness in the film, the raw power comes from exposing the ugly side of adolescence as it explores the tenuous relationship between the three teenage boys. The film is, by turns, subtle, vicious, and heartbreaking. It leaves the viewer feeling sad, hollow, and grateful that being a teen happens only once in life.

“THE STOPOVER” (”Voir du Pays”)— R & R in Cyprus

“THE STOPOVER” (”Voir du Pays”)

R & R in Cyprus

Amos Lassen

Aurore (Ariane Labed) and Marine (Soko) are on a transport plane headed from Afghanistan to Cyprus. They and a large group of male soldiers have been chosen to enjoy rest and recreation at a five-star hotel. This tests the friendship that they have shared since childhood.

Almost all the soldiers at the hotel suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. While others take in the pleasures of swimming, gambling, and relaxing, Aurore, Marine and another woman ditch a therapy session to go sightseeing with two Cypriot men.

Written and directed by Delphine and Muriel Coulin, this film vividly conveys the stress and vulnerability of these soldiers who are taken from a war zone and plucked into a hedonistic pleasure palace where their pent-up feelings of fear, anger, and revenge come to the surface. Clearly, just as the military needs to improve how Afghan war veterans are treated when they return home, they need to revamp R&R programs like the one depicted here.

Lots of partying and pampering are interspersed with group counseling sessions where their recent Afghan actions and strategies are reviewed with the aid of virtual reality. This leads to heated arguments between soldiers with wildly differing memories of key traumas.

This practice of R&R has been standard for returning French troops since 2008 and we see the absurdities of a treatment that essentially suspends war-battered fighters in a bubble of spa culture and disco. An introductory image arrestingly sets a tone of deadpan semi-surrealism for proceedings as we see a darkened aircraft interior, in which rows of identically posed soldiers slumber in fatigues and dainty blue eye masks.

The five-star hotel in Cyprus is part of a mandatory program devised by army psychologists. the troops are to spend most of their time taking part of in a decompression exercise designed to help them work through some of the traumas they’ve experienced in combat, with aid of virtual-reality equipment that recreates the conditions described. This might sound like science fiction to some, but is apparently standard practice now in several standing armies. When off-duty, they can hit the buffet or go the beach with the regular tourists.

Aurore is one of the first to give testimony about a particularly hellish ambush where several of their comrades were killed and Aurore herself was injured.

Marine, on the other hand, like many of the male soldiers, is resistant to this talking cure. Short-tempered and prone to biting sarcasm, she’s clearly barely able to halt her rage. Fanny (Ginger Roman), a field nurse and one of the few other women in the group, is somewhere in the middle of the stress spectrum, and would just like to have a bit of fun, and maybe drive around on roads where you don’t have to worry about land mines for a change.

When the three women end up cutting therapy to go sightseeing with a couple of Cypriot guys (Andreas Konstantinou and Makis Papadimitriou), it feels like a naughty release until a glimpse of a rifle in the trunk of the car suggests the locals might not be as harmless as they seem. From here on out, there is suspense that comes with a series of dramatic twists and reversals, all of it grounded in the fragile psychology of the characters who just a few days earlier were in constant fear for their lives. That sort of strain leaves its scars, on both the men and the women.

“WALKING OUT”— Struggling to Connect

“Walking Out”

Struggling to Connect

Amos Lassen

“Walking Out” focuses on a father and son’s harrowing attempt to escape the elements following a savage bear attack. David (Josh Wiggins) is a young city kid, a teenager spending time with his father, Cal (Matt Bomer), deep in the heart of Montana. It is quite clear that the relation between father and son is estranged. relationship at best. With one eye on going with his dad and then hurrying home, David agrees to go on their annual hunting trip. Cal, on the other hand, is intent on sharing everything he has learned about manhood from the same quality time he had spent with his father (Bill Pullman) many years prior. When Cal is seriously injured by a bear, it is up to David to carry him out of the snow-covered wild.

Directors and twin brothers Alex and Andrew Smith have adapted David Quammen’s short story into a simplistically honest and blistering tale of fathers and sons. Instead, Cal and David’s situation is completely plausible, as are the approaches to surviving that they each take. However, I did feel a lack of connection between the two actors. David is a modern teen, dependent on technology, and Cal is filled with a need for a rustic lifestyle. They are connected yet strangers, and the realization that they aren’t truly that far apart from one another was not there for me. Both actors deliver solid performances throughout, but I did not feel the father/son bond that a journey like this should give them.

I had no advance knowledge about the film and really had no idea of what I was going to see so the film was a pleasant surprise for me.

The plan was for Cal and David to take to the mountains, first by truck, and then on a five-mile overnight hike where Cal hopes to give David his first opportunity to shoot his first game, much like he did with his own father thirty years earlier. Of course, it all doesn’t go quite to plan and a horrific incident near the top of the mountain changes their plans entirely.

I had the feeling that this is a very personal film. Bomer shows huge maturity as an actor as the 40-something father clearly trying to make more of a man of his video game-playing son, a kid who probably relies on others to carry him through life.  As the story unfolds, the narrative turns around halfway in and goes in an entirely new direction. It’s exhausting to watch in places, but just as the young David strives to continue, we are with him and feel involved.

We see a truly focused study of the relationship between an estranged father and son that asks the audience for some kind of an emotional commitment to the intensely emotional conversations, memories, and damages that the characters must deal with. This isn’t a film for everybody, but it is rewarding for those who are patient.

David is caught up in his parents’ divorce and he flies out to Montana for his annual visit with his father who’s planned a father-son hunting trip. David has little interest in hunting, but Cal insists on recreating the memories for his son that were afforded to him by his own deceased father, Clyde. Together, they must learn how to connect and depend on each other as they take on the foreboding wilderness in which they become lost. This becomes even more difficult when both father and son become wounded in a freak accident involving a bear and a rifle. It will take their emotional strength and bond to overcome the physical limitations that now change their chances of survival.

Obviously, the film’s physical challenges symbolize the various emotional challenges that they both must climb in order to overcome the debilitating emotional wilderness and isolation they feel as father and son. Part of their estrangement is generational— an iPhone vs. a stick shift. This is buffeted by the especially powerful flashbacks to time Cal spent with Clyde. Bomer does fine with Cal’s growing acceptance of David for who he is. But then in the final third of the film, Wiggins takes the helm and carries father and son over the emotional threshold they’ve been aiming for. The connection is brief and painful, but sweet, and David walks away with memories that will last him a lifetime.

“RUBY”— Sweet Sixteen

 

“Ruby”

Sweet Sixteen

Amos Lassen

“Ruby” is filled with atmosphere and suspense, blood and special effects. Director Curtis Harrington recruited an impressive cast including Piper Laurie, fresh from her starring role in “Carrie” and Stuart Whitman (Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, 1965). It starts in 1935 with Ruby Clair as the beautiful hostess of a Florida gambling house, watches Nicky (Sal Vecchio), her gangster boyfriend being gunned down and sinking into the bayou. That same night Ruby gave birth and we fast forward to 1951. Ruby now owns a drive-in movie operated by a crew of ex-convicts she has befriended. Her beautiful daughter (Janit Baldwin) has never made a sound since she was born. Then one by one her theater employees are savagely murdered. A psychologist from the state prison tries to find out who the murderer is and why is he/she behaving like this. His discovery is what good horror movies are made of.

A projectionist is strangled with film; a concession stand attendant is stuffed into a soda machine; and Ruby, the dead mobster’s daughter is afflicted with a case of the shaking bed.

She watches over things from a large house next to the drive-in where she lives with her deaf and mute daughter and her crippled and blind former lover Jake and Vince (Stuart Whitman), who seems to take care of everybody (and the drive-in).

Ruby believes that the vengeful spirit of the mobster is responsible but Vince decides to pay a call upon his former prison shrink Dr. Paul Keller (Roger Davis) who is an expert in psychic phenomenon. Soon Ruby’s daughter speaks in her father’s voice and does seems to be possessed.

Ruby is a quickie production that’s based on a story by Steve Krantz and a screenplay by George Edwards and Barry Schneider. Harrington was replaced during the shoot by Stephanie Rothman, a former Roger Corman protégé, who changed what was a the delicate and melancholy ending against the wishes of both Harrington and star Piper Laurie.

Piper Laurie really hams it up as Ruby, a southern belle haunted by her dead boyfriend. The movie is basically a ghost story for the first two thirds. In the third part it becomes a possession story.

Bonus Materials include”

  • 2K Film Transfer and Restoration
  • 2001 David Del Valle Video Interview with Director, Curtis Harrington
  • Commentary Track – Dir: Curtis Harrington & actress Piper Laurie
  • Sinister Image Episode – David Del Valle Interviews Curtis Harrington- Vol. 1
  • Sinister Image Episode – David Del Valle Interviews Curtis Harrington- Vol. 2
  • 2017 Commentary Track with David Del Valle & ‘Curtis Harrington’ expert – Nate Bell
  • Liner Notes by Nate Bell
  • Original Theatrical Trailer – Restored HD
  • Includes a Bonus DVD copy!
  • Impressive cast featuring Piper Laurie, as Ruby, (Carrie – 1976) and Stuart Whitman (Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines – 1965)
  • First Time on Blu-ray!
  • Mastered in 2K from the original 35mm Negative
  • Digitally Restored Picture and Sound

“GO, JOHNNY GO!”— The Next Big Rock ‘N Roll Star

“Go, Johnny Go!”

The Next Big Rock ‘n Roll Star”

Amos Lassen

Rock & Roll changed 1950s America at 45 revolutions per minute, and we see just how in “Go, Johnny Go!” The film is based on DJ great Alan Freed’s search for the next big star and as the search continues, we get to hear some great music from Chuck Berry, Ritchie Valens, Jimmy Clanton, Jackie Wilson, Eddie Cochran, Harvey Fuqua, Jo-Ann Campbell, The Cadillacs, The Flamingos and Jimmy Cavallo.

Released in 1959, the film is a musical time capsule. While the acting and plot are mediocre, the film is filled with great musical performances by some of rock n’ rolls biggest hitmakers at the time.

We meet a young singer (Jimmy Clanton) who goes by the stage name of Johnny Melody. After a few opening performances, Chuck Berry and Alan Freed (playing themselves) talk about discovering Johnny.

Freed shares that Johnny was once a choirboy from an orphanage but managed to run away.Johnny bumps into his old friend from the orphanage, Julie Arnold (Sandy Stewart) who wants him to call her to re-connect, but he tells her he has no money for dates and is saving to record a demo record. Freed then tells Johnny that the talent search was only a publicity stunt by his agent.

At a recording studio, Julie records a demo of “Playmates”. On her way out, she meets Johnny again, and sings back up on his recording of “My Love Is Strong”. The record is one of many sent to Freed and Chuck Berry, hearing something special in it, urges that it be given strong consideration. But Johnny has failed to include contact information, and his subsequent call to Freed’s office fails to get through.

Freed has begun playing Johnny’s record on his radio show to overwhelming response, and has started a public search for Johnny. Ultimately we get to a happy ending and while this is, by no means a great film, it is fun to watch and remember when rock ‘n roll ruled.

“MUSSOLINI: THE UNTOLD STORY”— A Mini-Series

“Mussolini: The Untold Story”

A Mini-Series

Amos Lassen

Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini (George C. Scott) was powerful and arrogant. He dreamed of a new Roman Empire with himself as its new emperor. As Italy’s leader he was at first revered, feared and ultimately despised. But at the height of his power, the crowd would roar “Il Duce.” Mussolini was also the head of a family and was a devoted husband, father and godfather.

The focus is kept on Mussolini’s private life, moving between his roles of loving father and indefatigable womanizer. Closer to home, the leader has to contend with his devoted and protective wife, Rachele (Lee Grant) who has retained her peasant roots and spends most of her time being suspicious about ”outsiders.” She become is furious when her husband begins a serious affair with the young Claretta Petacci (Virginia Madsen).

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is the fiercely independent and troubled Mussolini daughter, Edda. Robert Downey, is Bruno, the son who died in a plane crash. Gabriel Byrne is another son, Vittorio.

The series begins in 1922, as Mussolini gathers his power through the use of his militia the Black Shirts. Mussolini gains a national fervor that peaks after the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935. In 1938, Mussolini attempted to promote peace at the Munich Conference but then aligned himself with Hitler. Mussolini drew Italy into the Second World War, which led to his country’s decline and Mussolini’s fall from power.