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The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Has anyone noticed this?
"Not too long ago I adapted a novel into a screenplay. I had to start from scratch. It was a disaster book about a meteorologist who discovers a new ice age approaching. No one believes him, of course, and when the weather changes it's too late. The new ice age begins. The meteorologist and a group of other scientists are sent to examine the glacier in Iceland, but the ship freezes in the ice. The novel ends with the main character freezing to death.
"That was the book. A disaster story of 650 pages that's a downer.
"I decided to keep the main character, but I wanted to place him in emotional conflict for more dramatic value. So I made him a politically outspoken professor, who was being considered for tenure at NYU. His 'irresponsible' statements about the impending ice age could possibly jeopardize his appointment.
"Then I had to figure out what to do about the story. I needed to change the ending into an 'upbeat' or positive one. I wanted them to live, not die in the frozen ice. So I had to construct new elements BASED on the novel. I began knowing I wanted an exciting opening. I went through the book and on page 287 found the main character traveling to the glacier in Iceland to measure glacial movement. I decided to open there, on the vast ice plain. A visual element. As they descend deep into the heart of the glacier an earthquake occurs, causing an avalanche. They barely make it out alive. It's a strong, visual sequence and sets up the story appropriately.
"When the professor returns to New York and presents his findings to his superiors, they don't believe him. The first blizzard of the year, the warning, then becomes the plot point at the end of Act I... The shape of things to come.
"The second act was another problem. I reduced most of the action to three major sequences: one, the main character organizes a world-wide network of scientists to try and solve the problem; two, New York City freezes; and three, the people finally accept the truth and try to formulate a plan. I strung these sequences together with incidents from the book, knowing I had to avoid all disaster-movie clichés; there was no market for disaster movies at the time. As I mentioned, the original ending didn't work and had to be changed. I ended up with a futuristic survival story."
The above quote is from the 1982 edition of the 1979 book SCREENPLAY, by Syd Field.
It has been reproduced without permission.
Like this movie.
The Mouse and His Child (1977)
A Child's Garden of Dada
I read the Russell Hoban novel as a child, and to this day it has affected my development. I saw the film as a child because of the novel, but it didn't stay with me to nearly the same extent. (Another animated film, Ralph Bakshi's WIZARDS, most certainly did.)
The main joy in the film is the character of Manny Rat, who is done perfectly, and that's a real compliment. Manny has become, for me, the classic redeemed villain. He's a wonderful character in the novel and in the film.
I would recommend the novel to any precocious child who can read novels without pictures. Just as Robert C. O'Brien's MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH forms a bridge between children's fiction and adult emotions, Hoban's novel -- one of the most unique books ever written -- links children's tales and the surrealist, hallucinatory symbolism of the avant-garde. To this day, when I read fiction written with a certain level of surrealistic imagery, I think of Manny Rat.
Whoops! Thought this was a camp classic.
I just saw this film on the big screen (the only surviving 35mm print in the world). I had never seen it on video, so seeing it in a crowded theater was my first experience with the film. As a bonus, the director, Richard Fleischer, the star, Perry King, and Brenda Sykes, who plays King's slave "wench" in the film, spoke before the screening.
The audience alternated between gasping and roaring with immediately regretted laughter throughout the screening. Nobody laughed for a moment at Susan George's supposedly over-the-top performance. And at the climax -- there were astounded gasps all over the theater. Afterwards, once the applause had died down, the audience filed out, stunned. Everyone looked shell-shocked. I wandered around for a while listening to people murmuring: "I told you guys..." "Best I've seen..." "Totally uncompromising..." "That's how it was..." "Didn't pull any punches..." "Amazing..." "Where did you hear about it?..."
We had one big advantage over most people who see the film. Most viewers go rent the tape because they read about it in, say, Edward Margulies' and Stephen Rebello's BAD MOVIES WE LOVE (which is how I knew about it). MANDINGO has a huge reputation as a camp classic, so people seek out the video where it can be found. Then they take it home and watch it alone, or with a friend or two, pre-primed to laugh.
The audience I was sitting with at the American Cinematheque theater had, first of all, read the sober, favorable description in the Cinematheque schedule. Then we'd listened to Fleischer himself talk about how he had refused ten times when Dino de Laurentiis had asked him to film the novel, only to finally accept when he realized how he could do it: "By being totally honest and straight with it." And he was, if you view it without a laugh ready. King and Sykes also spoke calmly and soberly about how hard the shoot was, and how the cast considered it an important film but still had trouble handling the emotions it stirred up.
Fleischer is hardly a symbolic director, although there's a lot of "found" symbolism in 10 RILLINGTON PLACE, for example. But MANDINGO was an obvious statement of the inhumanity of slave-OWNing, and it constantly used the setting and characters to emphasize the moral and physical disintegration of the Deep South under the self-imposed yoke of the slave culture. That sounds pretentious, but in MANDINGO it's totally straightforward. Moral disintegration leads to moral disintegration. The crime is its own punishment. MANDINGO is an antimatter GONE WITH THE WIND.
MANDINGO, as Fleischer pointed out, was a huge hit on its initial release. It was also viciously attacked by all but two critics in the United States. (Fleischer admitted that he saved all his reviews, and pointed out mildly that those two reviewers -- who were the only critics to go into the film in depth -- pronounced the film a masterpiece. "I don't know if it's that," he said, "but those two were certainly a breath of fresh air.")
Because of all the controversy, the film was never rereleased. Nobody at the screening could think of a single time it had been screened between 1975 and August 28, 1999. Perhaps it was screened once or twice, but my point is that essentially no one since 1975 has seen this film with an audience, to feel the reactions of those around the room, to see it on the big screen.
I think it's really unfortunate that MANDINGO has gotten locked into this "camp" label. The film contains so much depravity that I can certainly see why it was selected as a "camp classic". But that wasn't the intent at all. I've heard this film compared to SHOWGIRLS. But SHOWGIRLS was directed by the bizarre Paul Verhoeven (ROBOCOP, TOTAL RECALL, BASIC INSTINCT). Of course he was going for camp; he always does camp. But Richard Fleischer? He did 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, MR. MAJESTYK, 10 RILLINGTON PLACE (a real gem), THE BOSTON STRANGLER, FANTASTIC VOYAGE, SOYLENT GREEN. He is one of the most mild-mannered directors alive. He's done bad stuff -- CONAN THE DESTROYER and RED SONJA come to mind -- but in the seventies he was doing his best work. And that would have to include MANDINGO -- to my complete amazement.
I can't believe how different my experience with this film was from its usual "cult" interpretation. Now I wonder if Otto Preminger's HURRY SUNDOWN is as bad as the Medveds said it was in 50 WORST FILMS OF ALL TIME. I'll have to try to see it for myself.
Man of the Century (1999)
Big hit with me
I saw "Man of the Century" at the Best of Slamdance compilation at the Egyptian Theatre earlier this year. I LOVED the film, but what surprised me was the response of the audience, which practically gave it a standing ovation. Brilliant piece of work.
Tomorrow Is Another Day (1951)
Wonderful little noir about redemption.
This film screened at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on April 7, 1999. It was described in the American Cinematheque schedule as follows:
"TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY 1951, Warners, 90 min. Steve Cochran's an ex-con who's never been with a woman. Ruth Roman is a dime-a-dance dame with no use for sappy men. A hotel room, a dirty cop, a gunshot - the perfect jump-off for a fugitives-on-the-run love story. This virtually unknown noir is Felix Feist's masterwork, packed with revelatory set-pieces. Cochran was never more vulnerable, Roman never sexier. Imagine GUN CRAZY scripted by Steinbeck - it's that good."
I just saw this film, and I agree with every word of the above description.