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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Lionpower from MGM" (1967) is an excellent vintage 60s promotional
short subject, in which Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) showed distributors
and exhibitors highlights from the studio's films scheduled to be
released during the 1967-68 film season.
"Lionpower" showcases the MGM releases under a "five seasons" theme--fall, winter, spring, summer, plus what the promo calls the "fabulous fifth season." The short subject is set to the rousing theme from the film "The Magnificent Yankee", composed by David Raksin in 1950.
Since "Lionpower" is not a feature film, but only a promotional short for about 30 MGM movies, a "spoiler warning" is technically not applicable. However, we caution the reader that the article below will discuss the short subject in great detail. "Lionpower From MGM" begins with the roar of the MGM Lion over a black background. The main announcer (Karl Weber) proclaims "The sound of strength!" As the MGM logo fades in, the announcer adds: "The symbol of power! The excitement of entertainment energy comes on like a lion! For 1967-68 Lionpower From MGM!," all set to David Raksin's magnificent score. Boxes and circles quickly appear and disappear showing glimpses of directors Peter Glenville, Robert Aldrich, Stanley Kubrick, John Sturges, and John Frankenheimer in action, and stars Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Omar Sharif, Sophia Loren, Elvis Presley, Kim Novak, Doris Day, Lee Marvin, Jim Brown, Peter Ustinov, Suzanne Pleshette, George Hamilton, David McCallum, Stella Stevens, Julie Christie, and Rock Hudson. The first segment of the short presents films in production or ready for release from the fall of 1967 to the summer of 1968. Another announcer introduces fall as "the season of suspense," while clips are shown of "Point Blank"; "The Fearless Vampire Killers;" "Jack of Diamonds;" "Our Mother's House;" and "More than a Miracle." The main announcer then presents "Winter the second seasonSurges ahead on Lionpower." Here, scenes are presented from "The Comedians;" "Sol Madrid;" "The Biggest Bundle of Them All;" "Dark of the Sun;" "The Extraordinary Seaman;" "A Man Called Dagger;" and "Guns for San Sebastian." Another announcer introduces the next season stating: "Lionpower springs into spring," with clips from "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter;" and "The Power." Next, an announcer says: "Lionpower roars into summer in high gear," with scenes from "Speedway;" "Where Eagles Dare" (no scenes-only artwork is shown); "Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?;" "The Legend of Lylah Clare;" and "Ice Station Zebra." At this point, the stylized MGM logo (only used in two films ever: "Grand Prix" and "2001: A Space Odyssey") reappears, as announcer Weber dramatically states: "This is Lionpower, spanning the year with four full seasons of exciting motion picture entertainment. And this too is Lionpower, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's fabulous Fifth the Fifth Season, the extra power of entertainment energy that brings you these spectacular roadshow attractions!" This sets the stage for clips from the roadshow films "Far From the Madding Crowd;" and "2001: A Space Odyssey." (Like with "Where Eagles Dare", no scenes are shown of "2001", other than the "psychedelic" light show at the end of the film and artwork, all set to 1960's "The Time Machine" theme).
Lastly, the promo displays artwork for movies in development for release in 1968. Red circles surround the stylized MGM logo, as announcer Fred Foy asserts, "This is Lionpower, surging into the future on film, as MGM, a company of today, creates entertainment energy for tomorrow!" Here, only artwork is shown for "The Fixer;" "The Chinese Visitor;" "Goodbye, Mr. Chips;" "The Last Battle (not produced);" "The Appointment;" "Tai-Pan (released by another studio in 1986);" "The Shoes of the Fisherman;" "Caravans;" "The Impossible Years;" "The Phantom Tollbooth; (released in 1970)" and "The Tower of Babel (not produced). With Raksin's great score in the background, "Lionpower From MGM" comes to an exciting finale, as announcer Weber dramatically proclaims: "This is Lionpower! The sound of excitement! The look of leadership! The symbol of strength! The standard of excellence in motion picture entertainment! Lionpower! The sum total of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's star power, story power, production power, promotion power, for season after season, year after year. Fall, winter, spring, summer and the fabulous fifth season!" Simultaneously, scenes flash from all the movies showcased inside four colored rectangles representing the four seasons, which replaced four stylized MGM lions. An iris then opens in the center, showing the burning of Atlanta from "Gone With the Wind" (1939), which was re-released in 1968, and scenes from "Far From the Madding Crowd" and "2001: A Space Odyssey." As Raksin's theme music reaches a crescendo, Weber staunchly declares: "This is Lionpower!!!, while the MGM logo fades in and Leo the Lion roars. Most of the stars in "Lionpower" are still well-known today, but the same cannot be said about some of the movies showcased, except classics like "2001: A Space Odyssey." Some of these lesser known films are worth watching, although they are hard to find on DVD, but they play occasionally on Turner Classic Movies.
As a final note, "Lionpower From MGM" is narrated by several of the great voice-over talent used by the MGM promotional department during the 60's (and 70's). These include Karl Weber, Bob Marcato, and Fred Foy, who also lent their voices to many film trailers and "behind-the-scenes featurettes" for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer during the period, and reportedly was produced by the late Andrew J. Kuehn. (My sincere appreciation to voice-over legend Don LaFontaine, for identifying for me who some of the narrators in "Lionpower From MGM" were.)
"Lionpower From MGM" can only be seen on Turner Classic Movies, and is worth taking a look as a unique and exciting 60s movie time capsule. It runs 27 minutes long.
This has been shown lately as buffer between films on Turner Classic Movies. It is a great advertising piece that screams the 1960s and makes you want to see some movies. A good majority of the films showcased here, however, aren't on video. Two weren't even made as films! TCM should just use this as a springboard for upcoming films.
I was just old enough to read about and understand the dismantling of
MGM not long after this promotional short came out. In retrospect, if
the movies featured in it are all the studio had to offer, then I guess
it became a fait accompli when most of these pictures were released to
mediocre reviews and/or box office, precipitating the fire sale of real
estate and studio inventory that took place as a result (the most
symbolic act of which being the auctioning of Dorothy's ruby slippers).
I have seen many of the films that were promoted here. The highlight, of course, was "2001: A Space Oddysey." "Point Blank" and "Where Eagles Dare" were both pieces of solid entertainment, as well. On the other end was "The Extraordinary Seaman," a horrible mess of a film that is supposed to be a lightweight story about the ghost of a WWI British naval officer (David Niven), but was weighted down by an albatross of a script penned by someone without a shred of whimsy, and directed the same way by John Frankenheimer, of all people. And "A Man Called Dagger" screams "TV Movie," what with its small-screen/b-movie cast (and budget). Unfortunately, most of the films in "Lionpower" fit either one or both of those moldy molds.
The class productions included "The Comedians," an ironic title, courtesy of the Graham Greene novel, about people living in Haiti during the Papa Doc Duvalier regime. Not a happy movie, but at least the participants- Liz and Dick, plus Lillian Gish and Paul Ford- had a good script to work from. And Roman Polanski directed "The Fearless Vampire Killers," a humorous satire that ought to be viewed again, now that the Transylvania Kids are once again en vogue.
There are a lot of other movies represented here. Unfortunately, even the few good ones mentioned in it couldn't save the studio, and the (mostly) fair-to-middling releases only hastened the demise of the MGM we once knew. So, in the end, "Lionpower" represents the final, throttled gasp of Leo the Lion, symbol of the studio that was once called the "Dream Factory."
Footnote: Ironically, it was another gigantic turkey, "Heaven's Gate," that, a decade later, allowed MGM (and Leo) to rise from the ashes and take over its parent company, United Artists, which had financed that infamous money pit of a film.
Just watched this promotional M-G-M short-shown to exhibitors-on their upcoming films for the 1967-68 season. The only movie from the trailers they showed I actually watched beforehand was The Feerless Vampire Killers which I remembered being amused by if a little confused. At the end, they showed a little test footage from 2001: A Space Odyssey which I've seen twice, both times I wasn't completely enamored of it though it was always a fascinating watch. I've also seen The Phantom Tollbooth though I didn't recognize the brief images presented for that as from the movie. I remember enjoying that a little. Anyway, this was a fascinating document I watched on YouTube as uploaded from TCM.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
. . . it must be sitting through nearly half an hour of non-stop, haphazardly-arranged, inconsistently formatted ads for almost three dozen crappy movies! Last Friday TCM (Turner Classic Movies) arranged the perfect double feature treat for its patrons by following up THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES with this exercise in masochism from MGM. (It must have been sevens theme night, as the channel earlier displayed ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS, while this promo lasts twenty-SEVEN minutes: TCM's programmers may be scraping the bottom of the barrel.) From the studio which gave us GONE WITH THE WIND and THE WIZARD OF OZ in the same year, who would not be thrilled to learn that MRS. BROWN, YOU'VE GOT A LOVELY DAUGHTER, SOL MADRID, and GUNS FOR SAN SEBASTIAN all were in the pipeline, coming to a theater near you soon? Does anyone do before and after IQ testing of Hollywood rookies? If the average employee loses 10 points every year they produce, screenwrite, or direct in Hollywood, it would explain so much!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I will not give a synopsis of this MGM promo film, which is done excellently in another review, but suffice to say that this is a very well done piece of work. Excellent use of music and inter-cutting of film clips, which must have really excited exhibitors of the time with it's wealth of up-coming releases. Some blockbusters (such as "2001"), and many, many other excellent films (along with, yes, a few undeniable duds like "The Extraordinary Seaman" and "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter"). My personal favorites included in Lion Power are "The Power" (one of the greatest, if most overlooked, films of all time), "Ice Station Zebra" (perhaps the best cold war thriller of them all), "Where Eagles Dare" (terrific slam, bang war picture), "The Biggest Bundle of Them All" and "The Impossible Years" (two very underrated Sixties comedies), "Dark of the Sun" and "The Comedians". It's a shame many of the featured flicks in Lion Power are rarely seen nowadays, such as "Sol Madrid" and "Jack of Diamonds". Lion Power really shows what movie-making was like in Sensational Sixties, and how utterly lousy movie-making is nowadays. One reviewer noted that Lion Power was perhaps a last gasp from Leo the Lion before the virtual demise of MGM in the Seventies, but that situation was hardly unique to MGM -- virtually every major studio backed big-budget flops in that era, and ended up facing hard financial times. Much has been made of television cutting into profits and destroying the old "studio system" back in the Fifties, but it wasn't until the late 60's that the full effect of TV hit the movie industry. At any rate, definitely catch Lion Power next time TCM shows it -- a real nostalgia trip!
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