cast: Eliza Dushku, Melissa Sagemiller, Casey Affleck, Angela Featherstone, Wes Bentley

director: Steve Carpenter

85 minutes (15) 2001
widescreen aspect ratio 16:9
Momentum DVD Region 2 rental
Also available to rent on video

RATING: 2/10
reviewed by Emma French

Soul Survivors is marked as a disconcerting generic mishmash from the opening scenes, in which it tries and fails at teen romance, clubbers’ cautionary tale, campus comedy, and suspense thriller. Various incidents begin to suggest that this is a horror film, but one of the most slow-moving and least scary movies in the canon. Though the relationship is barely developed before a fatal car crash in which the driver, Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller), appears to kill her lover Sean (Casey Affleck), the remainder of this dull yet offensive flick hinges on their all-conquering love for each other, transcending mortal boundaries. An agonising chain of events ensues for Cassie and viewers alike, of gruesome nosebleeds and hallucinogenic visits from Sean and other odd spectral aggressors, including psychic K.D. Lang look-a-like, Raven (Angela Featherstone), and a man with his face chillingly coated in… plastic wrap.
A final twist, the least original in film and television history (think Bobby Ewing stepping out of Pam’s shower in Dallas), is intended to silence all queries, but insufficiently redeems the endless nonsensical holes and inconsistencies along the way. Thus Cassie returns to her university place immediately after Sean’s funeral, but receives no pastoral care of any kind and attends a college where vacant hallways, deserted locker rooms and empty swimming pools luxuriously abound. Cassie’s college room is a sumptuous loft apartment – that echoes the palatial space inhabited equally improbably by Jennifer Beals’ welder dancer in Flashdance, and is frequently invaded by her obsessive ex-boyfriend Matt (Wes Bentley) and his girlfriend, Annabel (Eliza Dushku), a freakish 1980s’ Goth throwback. Spectrally beyond any need to attend class or lectures, they help Cassie to pop pills, have night sweats and redecorate. Though, natch, the paint soon turns to blood in yet another vision, it was more frightening when it went on the walls as tangerine and pea green.
Bentley, who radiated ‘Next Big Thing’ in American Beauty, provides a genuine element of pathos: reduced not only to appearing in abysmal movies but to parodying his break-out role, a kind of Linda Blair for the millennium. What Bentley played as quirky eccentricity and emotional damage in American Beauty is caricatured by him in Soul Survivors as a great deal of wide-eyed, psychotic staring and ‘intensity’. Sagemiller, blandly sexless in Get Over It, continues to play to type. Casey Affleck forms part of a criminally charisma-free contingent of teen male leads, like Sagemiller’s co-star Ben Foster in Get Over It, who create a genuine sense of marvel that they could beat anyone in the audition process. Luke Wilson, generally an actor with some degree of talent and discrimination, is one of the film’s unintentionally horrifying elements – miscast as angelic Catholic priest Father Jude.
Most culpable, though, is the film’s queasy, dubious subtext of sexual aggression and violence against women. Cassie’s pale, bruised body, particularly in facial close-up, is unnervingly vulnerable and open, frequently bloodied or assailed by a phallic drill. In a strange sequence it is suggested that a case of mistaken identity leads to her having sex against her will, and Annabel is punched, attacked and syringed to oblivion. Creating nonsense for 90 minutes and then passing it off as a cunning series of twists is not big or clever, and recycling the worst excesses of the slasher and sexploitation genres for cheap shocks verges on the immoral.
DVD extras: trailer, production notes.

Jacques Tati represents a particular style of European cinema which is contrary to the action of even the tamest American film and much in love with the art of painting. Films designed to draw the viewer not to the story but to the content of the frame.

Similarly crypto code is now brought in a different meaning and understanding t the trading field by bringing in many new and unique features for the traders like the stop loss option, daily earnings etc… The traders also expect such things from the market and it is these expectations that becoe the reason for such systems.
Mon Oncle (trans: My Uncle) opens with some dogs nosing around a street and perfectly expresses Tati’s style. The humour becomes apparent as the dogs end up gazing comically through the front gate of a well kept modern house designed by the father of a young boy, to a clinical exactitude which perfectly expresses the bareness of the man’s emotional character. No wonder the boy prefers the company of his clownish uncle, played by Tati.
The uncle is nothing but trouble wherever he goes, not deliberately but through his bumbling lack of foresight and total helplessness in a crisis. Mon Oncle pits man against modernity, where the management class and the upwardly mobile embrace the ideal of the new world and new technology because it is innovative and exclusive. Against this background Tati is the defective n’er do well with tired old mac and pipe, allowing the young boy to wander into mild mischief. The irony is that the new technology is as defective as the uncle.
At with all Tati’s films, Mon Oncle is virtually silent, relying on the sight gags of the clown and when they arrive, Tati turns out to be the master of invention. His gags are always observed, a matter of wry amusement rather than guffaw, though he can deliver those too with ease. But essentially Tati’s great strength is the nature-watch style of comedy filmmaking, setting up his shot and waiting for the gag to amble along; ‘Observe!’. Which is fine if you are of an up and at ’em temperament. In fact these films were probably perfect in the laid back days of the mid to late 1960s, simply set on a loop.
Though not as strong as the perfectly balanced Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday or Jour de fete, which are essential, there are many fine moments to be savoured in Mon Oncle.

George ‘Buck’ Flower and John Goff were buddies on screen and off. Between them they appeared in 250 films and together on upwards of 50, many of them with major exploitation names.

Paul Higson recovers this 1989 interview, here published for the first time, and initially considered for an update. He was saddened to learn that it was too late an action for one of the subjects. The wonderful George ‘Buck’ Flower had died on 12th June 2004.

George 'Buck' Flower John Goff
The Alpha Incident

Hundra

Drive-in Massacre

The Devil and Leroy Bassett

George 'Buck' Flower as Wilbur in, The Devil and Leroy Bassett

The Adventures of the Wilderness Family

George 'Buck' Flower as Boomer in, The Adventures of the Wilderness Family

Across The Great Divide

The Witch Who Came in From the Sea

The Capture of Bigfoot

John Carpenter's The Fog

They Live

Relentless

Maniac Cop

People like George ‘Buck’ Flower and John Goff were the backbone of American exploitation film, and few of their kind remain in the independent sector stateside today. They stood out in bad movies, ensured that others got made, multi-tasking before and behind the camera. They first came to my attention as a virtual double act in the films of John Carpenter and Bill Rebane, their names popping up together more often than not, hinting the availability of their talented friend to whichever director they were working with the kindly trick behind that. ‘Buck’ Flower was unmistakeable, his semblance rarely altered, his resonant, deep voice delivering the funniest of lines, so often so that you suspected he was improving on the scripted dialogue, the directors operating on budgets meagre and discounting re-shoots while privately conceding the improvement. In The Fog the actors played two of the crew who do not return alive coming up against the ghost lepers. If I repeat the line, you’ll hear the voice. “Woman’s crazy, there ain’t no fog bank out there… hey, there’s a fog bank out there.” In Escape From New York that voice again will dig into you if I quote: “Oh, I knew I was gonna be the President when I got this here bracelet.”

John Goff meanwhile was shape shifting, moving from hick country heavyweight thug to dapper suit, from burly to lean. Good roles came occasionally, as in The Alpha Incident as a railroader worker with his movements restricted because of potential exposure to a dangerous lab made virus. Breaking down he becomes a vicious rapist before getting his just desserts (in the interview he recalls it as poisoning, his character is dramatically shot dead in the film). His finest turn was as the sober psychiatrist in the first two Relentless films, a rare recurring role that gives an example of how he might have fared had his concentration been on the acting career and not been divided by the writing that brought him greater financial stability.

While Goff was an actor and accomplished writer, Flower was an all-rounder, an actor, a writer, a film crewman in various capacities and a novelist. As a technician and manager he worked on the films of the notorious likes of Herb Freed, Matt Cimber and Don Edmonds (for this director, on the Ilsa movies, Southern Double Cross and Terror On Tour). He wrote novels with Charles Napier, Jerry Vonne (The Young And The Proud) and John Goff (Children Of The North Woods). Long before that he had short fiction published in 1964-5 for Challenge Press and with titles like No Social Security For Studs and Third Floor Walk-Up On 88th Street we can allude to the themes. He appeared in 120 feature films and a few more that weren’t completed. On stage up until 1989 he had been involved in over 500 theatrical productions. In 1989 there was a stack of prospective screenplays written with Ed Hansen, Charles Napier, Meegan King and Terry Gardner, tackling all exploitative genre, sex, mystery, horror, action, comedy and family, including Kiss My Saddlehorn, which, one assumes, was not family fodder. It doesn’t need telling that he was an exceedingly funny man it is evident in the following interview.

‘Buck’ Flower went into the industry because of the proximity it brought to good-looking unclothed women. Soft sex films came and soft films went to be replaced by hardcore that would not have accommodated him. The response, Flower began writing and producing sex comedies of his own, like Party Favours and The Bikini Carwash Company, the latter in particular doing solid business on video and then DVD in the UK to this day. Flower can often be found credited as CD LaFleur. Both men are fascinating and a lot can be learned from them… the primary lesson being ‘shut the heck up and just do it’. These men never wasted a moment and as a result will never suffer regrets.

The reason this interview did not appear at the time did not occur to me until I read it again and the motives flooded back. I was sending out interviews to small press publications every which way… but I was reserving several of the best for my publication, which had it reached issues five and six would have seen them included and proudly. Bear in mind the day in which this interview was conducted, a time before the Internet Movie Database so as much as I might have known going in, there was a lot more I could not know at that stage. It was a busy CV each then, and Flower in particular never slackened and continued to visit his magic on the low budget movies to the end. I just wish I had jumped to it a year earlier. There are many lousy films in my video collection just because ‘Buck’ Flower and John Goff are in them… I think Buck in particular would chuckle and delight in that fact.

I am a bit of a horror hound, and your SF, horror and fantasy outings are the films I am primarily going to be aware of.

John Goff (JG): I love the genre of horror, terror and sci-fi. I served three years as a critic, staff reporter and assistant editor at both trade papers here in town, The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety and, interestingly enough, the very first piece I wrote for publication in The Hollywood Reporter was the notice of Boris Karloff’s death (2nd February 1969). I remember it as a sad honour since I was always a great fan of Karloff.

I should ask for your personal details first of all. Where do we start? How about some rap on your earliest experiences in acting and then film?

George ‘Buck’ Flower (GBF): I was raised on a cattle ranch in the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon about five miles from a tiny village called Monument that isn’t near anywhere. After a hitch in the army as a perennial eight-ball, I returned to the mountains and enrolled as a student of engineering in Eastern Oregon College. Nowhere on my resume will you find the word ‘smart’, but it soon became clear to even my mouse-sized brain that when you receive all flunking grades in everything but English composition and speech, engineering was probably the wrong vocation. The decision to move along was hastened by the schools administration the following spring when I, and 15 other spirited army veterans, was asked never to set foot on campus again. I still slump way down in the car seat whenever I drive through the small city of Lagrande Oregon. I was one of the three of the exiled 16 that ended up in Pasadena, California where I discovered I could re-instate my G.I. Bill and go to acting school. This seemed to me a good way to bring in some rent money without having to go to work. Investigated the local J.R. College in Pasadena and as I entered the drama department I found myself surrounded, literally, by tits and ass. My mind, as well as other parts of my anatomy, immediately set. I tossed aside my cowboy hat, purchased a couple of baggy sweaters and entered the world of dramatic arts and dewy-eyed co-eds, I followed a path that led to summer stock repertory theatre and, years later, the crazy state of cinema, where I found that after 14 years on the professional stage, I had no acting experience. I found employment as a grip, in the old softcore nudies, learned to become an assistant director and production manager, and finally, found someone fool enough to let me in front of the camera. My quest in life is still a-hunting for new damn fools. They are out there, but not nearly enough of them.

JG: I was born and reared on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi in a small town called Kreole. That’s not far from Pascagoula, where a couple of guys were picked up in a spaceship a few years back and where, legend has it, rather than give up their land to the white man, a tribe of Indians many years back walked singing into the Singing River. On special nights and when the wind is right you can hear the spirits of those dead red-men still singing. (Reared) also near Moss Point… from where I graduated with a lack of honours from high school… flunked English three years in a row so it was only natural one of my professions should be writing. Kreole’s also near Escatawpa, Orange Grove and Bayou Cassotte. I grew up with an abundance of wonderful lore surrounding me. My uncle was manager of one of the local film theatres and I used to sit in the darkness of that house… the Ritz Theatre… and marvel at the images there and can never remember wanting to be anything other than an actor. I also learned to drink ‘moonshine’ whiskey and never dared to mention anything about being an actor during those formative years because that was considered… in the 1940s and 1950s not really a suitable profession for a six-foot, one-inch athlete. After graduation, however, I joined the local theatre group in Pascagoula and became the leading man of the group. Won a scholarship to Mississippi Southern College for their theatre programme. There I met one my great weaknesses, a beautiful female by the name of Carolyn Lovelady. I’ve never been able to resist a beautiful woman, and especially one with such an enticing name. She later joined a touring repertory company and, like a bloodhound following a strong scent… in this case it was more of a beautiful aroma… I followed her, thereby chasing and satisfying my urge for my two greatest loves. I remained on the road, touring the United States for the next year and a half and learning the craft of acting. I then went working summer stock in Colorado. After a year and a half of that and getting married… for the first time… I decided it was time to start making a star of myself; I came to Hollywood. Here I found pretty much the same thing Buck found… all those years of stage training didn’t mean shit to the ‘film folk’. I drove taxi for a while, was a janitor for a while, trimmed trees for a while, worked some more summer stock and then landed my first film role on TV on The Big Valley where I worked with Lee Majors and guest star that week John Anderson. Made a screen test at Warner Bros for a movie and then didn’t work as a film actor again for the following six years. Filling in that time I worked on the staff of the original Dating Game… don’t know whether you got that over there or not. This was in the mid-through late 1960s. Met a great many wonderful looking women and got my first divorce. After two and a half years of that it was time to move on again. Being born a Gemini… 24th May… and believing… at that time, and some now… that Geminis have a restless, double mood and chameleon-like nature, I landed a job at The Hollywood Reporter. Later I moved over to The Daily Variety and was then offered a starring role in a motion picture. That turned out to be The Devil And Leroy Bassett in which I had the role of Leroy and Buck played my brother Wilbur.

The two of you have worked together for a long time. How did you first meet?

GBF: I first met John Goff when we were both working as actors for a repertory company almost 30 years ago. We were not, however, in the same plays together. I had moved on to form my own rep company, The Inspiration Players, with a late short stint as a teacher at North Carolina State College and John had served several years as a critic, for both The Hollywood Reporter and Variety… he served about ten minutes as editor… before we were offered the leads in a film called The Devil And Leroy Bassett. We were sure the film would become a hit and make us both stars. The film bombed and nobody to this date knows who either of us is, but John and I became fast friends and remains that way today. Shortly after the film wrapped we became a writing team and fed our families writing softcore skin flicks occasionally selling one for a higher budget but not very often.

JG: Me! Yes, Buck and I had met years earlier when we toured for the same acting repertory company but at different times and in different troupes and had never worked together until this film. In it, I played a religious fanatic and Buck was my drunk of a brother Wilbur. I still get a thrill when I look at the poster from that film and see my snarling face emerging from a large skull with a bear-trap mouth. I’m in the centre of the bear-trap… where I’ve been the most of my life. On that film we discovered we had a mutual love for good whiskey, good times and we enjoyed acting together. We had both been signed to a two-picture contract and while we were waiting for the second picture we began writing together and found the ease we’d shared in acting together was equally there with writing. It took us, about, two weeks and fourteen cases of beer to complete a script. We sold that script and ourselves in the lead roles but it went belly up after a week of shooting and more internal strife on the executive side than the production could hold. We went looking for other jobs but kept the friendship and the writing team together.

Other films on which I have found credits for John Goff are The Love Butcher (as key grip), HundraUnder The RainbowDistortions and A Time To Die.

JG: Yes, I was the grip on The Love Butcher but I still, to this day, haven’t seen the film. Under The Rainbow, I had a small role in. I was in The Buddy Holly Storyas T.J. – the cigar chewing Nashville record producer that Gary Busey punched out. Under The Rainbow was produced by the same team, and they had liked my work in Buddy Holly well enough to call me back. I had lost about 50 pounds by that time and didn’t have the same ‘look’ and they didn’t know what to do with me… the Gemini chameleon syndrome. Hundra, I was the screenwriter on for producer-director Matt Cimber, and I loved it. Even those minutes I don’t remember from imbibing a spot or two or three too much. A Time To Die is another favourite. We filmed that one in Amsterdam, three terrific months in Amsterdam with side trips into London, Paris and Rome. The working time of A Time To Die was ‘Mario Puzo’s Seven Graves For Rogan’ and I was hired originally to rewrite the Puzo script since he didn’t want to be bothered with it. I have some wonderful memories… some of which were related to me only later since I was able find some marvellous libations there also. I remember we were putting up at the EuroMotel there in Amsterdam and there was a group of construction workers also there from Nottingham. A couple of burly and wild redheaded brothers from Nottingham were the ringleaders and we spent some great nights draining the bar there. Wish I could remember their names. They were great lads. I dearly love your continent and hope to return someday, even if I can’t sip the great wines anymore. Distortions and another, Deadly Intent, both of which I was the screenwriter for, were done here, in this country for Jackelyn Giroux, who is the young lady in Drive-in Massacre, an actress turned producer.

Might you have had any involvement with any of these films, George?

GBF: I had no involvement with The Love Butcher but I did know most of the actors and all of the crew. I was off working as a casting director at the time. The little boy in the film, however, is my youngest son Roo, who is now six-foot, three-inches, 220 pounds, and makes his living as a grip. The others you ask about, I’m very familiar with but had no involvement with whatsoever.

George, you seem to appear very often as drunks, tramps and, you do a particular fine line in drunken tramps. Might this be a reflection of the real you?

GBF: I’ve done that character so many times that when somebody says, ‘Saw you do a drunk on a park bench’, I have no idea what movie they’re talking about. I think my famous old drunk started with a drunken old man I played nearly 20 yeas ago in a little known, badly done film called The Girl From Boston. John Goff played the faggot in this one, by the way and was shot by Dean Cundey who was recently nominated for an Oscar for Who Framed Roger Rabbit?! Up until then nobody could seem to figure out what ‘type’ I was. The film ran short of funds and the rough cut was shopped around a lot as the backers searched for finishing money. Nobody liked the film much but I started getting calls about the old man. I lost the first two jobs because I didn’t look like that in real life, so I started going out in make-up and leaving my upper plate at home, and I started getting hired. Then when the Wilderness Family films hit so big… I was ‘Boomer’ in all three of them; by the way… people just naturally figured that’s what I looked like! Then when Carpenter… bless his Kentucky hide… cast me as the wino in Escape From New York, it caught the attention of Spielberg and poker went up. For that character, at least, I never got more than one day, but the old dude gets more a day than any of my other characters get a week. Is that a reflection of me in real life? I gotta tell ya Paul, when I’m drunk I have no idea what I look like. I have been told, though, it’s not a pleasant sight.

JG: Buck has just about cornered the market on ‘drunks, tramps and drunken tramps’. I don’t try to compete. My own image… due to the Gemini chameleon syndrome… is still in flux, I suppose. I have gone from black-haired leading man to a fat bearded slob… psychotic, to gaunt and bony salt and pepper, to slim and grey right now. All of which were reflections of my bouts with the bottle and two other wives… total at this time, three… and just general searching and boredom. The roles have ranged from leading man to bully and more recently to professional types… lawyer in Maniac Cop, federal interrogator in Hit List – which I also scripted… police captain in The Night Stalker – scriptwriter again here… psychiatrist in the upcoming Relentless, judge on TV’s Simon & Simon, and the bit of the first and well-dressed alien in Carpenter’s They Live. Had one minute of screen-time in that one and they’ve been using my face for all the promotional material on it.

What’s the best drinking session you and John ever had?

GBF: John Goff hasn’t had a drink in over six years. He is a famous Hollywood teetotaller. However, back when we did The Devil And Leroy Bassett we were roommates in a hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Usually, we closed the bar together, but for some reason I had retired early� alone unfortunately. I was awakened rudely by a ‘tap tap tapping’ on the door. Pushing mightily against the many waves of sleep attempting to strangle my brain. I staggered to the door and opened it. There was no one to be seen. Suddenly, I felt something slither across the top of my feet. I look down to see this famous critic, recently from The Hollywood Reporter, crawl into my room. You may print this if you wish. I have witnesses. In spite of my nakedness… even in the nudies I was paid more to keep my clothes on that after the first two or three… I ran down the hall knocking on doors and waking everyone up. At least ten people saw the dignified Mr Goff laying on his back like a turtle as he attempted to disrobe for what was left of the evening’s slumber. I have names and numbers should you ever be approached by a barrister.

JG: The best drinking session Buck and I ever had would be hard to pick out. There were several on The Devil And Leroy Bassett, a protracted one on the film that went belly up where, at one point, we found ourselves driving through the middle of the blackest night one has ever seen through a farming community of Visalia, California, and we tried to move a bridge with a 1965 Mustang that was carting us around. The bridge didn’t want to move so it punched out the automobile. Wasn’t either of ours car… fortunately.

You had a great parts in Bill Rebane’s The Alpha Incident (‘Gifts From The Red Planet’ as it was titled during shooting) as the drunken train guard who gets a little nosy and releases the virus that later causes the gruesome death of at least one of the characters (played by Ralph Meeker). Was ‘Hank’ your first featured role, even though admittedly, not in a major film, George?

GBF: I did another film for Bill Rebane besides The Alpha Incident. John was also in this one and served as the assistant director. It was called The Capture Of Bigfoot. I think Devil And Leroy Bassett was my first major billing on a film. At any rate, A Small Town In Texas and The Wilderness Family and Across The Great Divide were much earlier than The Alpha Incident. I’m sure there are a few more but I tend to forget turkeys as each Thanksgiving rolls into oblivion.

JGThe Alpha Incident was a fun one. My hair was starting to turn colour on that one… also, my liver. I was the local railway bully in that one that survived only to be poisoned [shot, actually]. Another that Buck and I did for Bill Rebane was The Capture Of Bigfoot for which I was also the assistant director.

George, you seem to get the best lines in many of these films. Might this be because you are ad-libbing your parts? I am thinking primarily of The Fog and Escape From New York.

GBF: John Carpenter has accused me occasionally of not sticking to the script. In They Live, however, he wrote the part for me and the son of a bitch had such a good handle on me I couldn’t change a thing. Really made me uptight. I’m sure no one in this business can write except myself… well, William Goldman’s pretty damned good, and John Goff ain’t too bad.

JGThe Fog was our first to work for Carpenter. We filmed the stuff in the hold of the boat we were on and the shot on deck where we see the ghost ship. Then I left for Amsterdam and A Time To Die, came back three months later and Carpenter had written in the segment of our deaths on board. If you look closely you’ll see that I change shirts from the time we come on deck to the time of demise. Also that my beard is shorter since I had shaved in the meantime and Buck’s is longer since he hadn’t.

You have appeared in four Carpenter films The FogEscape From New YorkStarman and They Live [he would subsequently appear in Village Of The Damned also]. He must be a big fan of yours.

GBF: Strangely enough I only know Mr Carpenter professionally, not at all socially. He seems to like my work and I owe the man one hell of a lot.

JG: I didn’t work Carpenter’s others until They Live and only got that one I think because Buck brought my name up. Don’t know how big a fan of mine he is, I can only say that Buck is a fan of mine. He got on a good writing roll the past couple of years and cast me as a homo choreographer in two… the same role, sequels… a lecherous airline manager in another. He refuses to typecast and since I haven’t been able to settle in on a certain ‘look’ he continues to cast me in various roles where an ‘actor’ is needed.

I have yet to see They Live [at the time of this interview only previewed by Guild for a coming theatrical release in the UK] and only knew of your appearance in that film due to a reviewer deeming you worthy of mention in Film Review magazine. Is your role as prominent as indicated, and what is that role?

GBF: See the film, Paul! Watching dirty ‘Buck’ Flower run around in a tuxedo is worth the money. Answer, it’s a damn good role… like I said, I owe the dude. He’s from the same place as my best friend Charles Napier, who has also steered money into my pocket many times to keep the wolf away… I’m sure glad god made Kentucky.

You dabbled in scriptwriting for at least two films, Drive-in Massacre and In Search Of The Golden Sky. You also took a starring role in the latter of the two. What was that film about? Sounds like an adventure film.

GBF: I’ve written several films. Many have been so badly butchered by the time they hit the screen I had my name removed. The ones I left my name on ain’t that hot either. Did you hear about the Polish starlet, Paul? She fucked the writer. In Search Of The Golden Sky is a G-rated family film, in the genre of the Wilderness Family. It made seven million dollars and I never saw a penny.

JG: Buck and I co-wrote both Drive-In Massacre and In Search Of The Golden Sky. As an actor I worked under the name of Jake Barnes in Drive-In Massacre… one of the police investigation team… and was Harry the helicopter pilot in In Search Of The Golden Sky but was cut out when the distributor re-cut and re-filmed a goodly portion of that film which ego ran rampant over. It was a wonderful family type film entitled ‘Children Of The North Woods’ in its original form the way we shot it.

Drive-In Massacre was I believe the borderline film for Stuart Segall, who I believe had been making porn films prior to that and is now working in television in the production of shows like Hunter. I have yet to see the film but it is said to feature gory murders. Who in the Flower/ Goff writing team exorcised themselves by devising the deaths for the script?

GBF: When two people form a writing team and create a story, it is almost impossible to figure out who came up with what. If you didn’t like it, it was probably John’s idea. However, if you did, I’ll take the credit.

JG: God knows whose idea that was. Drive-In Massacre was written at the same time two others were being written and many ideas came from both of us and from Stu and anyone else who might have been rummaging around through that pile of beer cans and whiskey bottles that was our work area. I remember another film Buck and I worked on as writers, Joyride To Nowhere. We contracted to write that from someone else’s idea and it was just godawful. We had fought to get two weeks to write it in. After the first day I turned to Buck and said, “I can’t work on this piece of shit for two weeks.” He replied, “I can’t either.” So went out for several cases of beer and finished it in four days. Mercifully it died quickly.

You, George, had the rather odd credit of ‘production advisor’ on Herb Freed’s Beyond Evil. What did this entail?

GBF: A production advisor on a budget film is a ‘line producer’ working with an ignorant producer whose ego is too big to share the credit. In the case of Beyond Evil a production advisor was also somebody who needed the money so bad he would have taken the title of ‘third toilet plunger’.

JG: I’m not really production minded. Buck’s great at that but about all I can do is fill up blank pages of paper and recite the words.

The girl patient in that film was credited as Werkino Flower. Is this girl related to you and what kind of name is Werkino?

GBF: Look, Paul, the girl’s name is ‘Verkina’. She was also in Drive-In Massacre. She appeared with me but as in many cases I elected not to be included in the cast list. And Verkina is a beautiful name, especially to a young, drunk, off-Broadway theatre director who’s just received a telegram from New Mexico that he’s the brand new father of a baby girl and what should we name her. This lady is now a very successful costume designer for commercials and feature films.

You both appeared in Maniac Cop without beards. Coincidence?

GBF: John Goff has been shaven for years. I shave mine if somebody pays me and then the next movies have to live with whatever I look like until it grows back. I didn’t have a beard in Starman. Check it out, better imitation material than The Fog.

Was the end to drinking under doctor’s orders, John?

JG: My drinking came to an end six years ago. I discovered I’d drank my share and was working on someone else’s stash and I didn’t want them to miss out on all the fun I’d had.

Robert Z’Dar (of Maniac Cop) also starred in a film which you, George, appeared in and you, John, wrote, the 1986 film The Night Stalker. Why has this film not been released in the UK? [This film was later released by New World on video.]

JG: No idea why The Night Stalker hasn’t been released over there. I wish it would be and someone over there would offer me a job or two. I got the job writing Hit List because William Lustig, the director had seen The Night Stalker in New York and came out here to get the team that did that one to do Hit List. Do you believe lightning really strikes twice?

GBF: I line produced The Night Stalker and hired John Goff to write the script with my boss and producer Don Edmunds. In my opinion it’s a hell of a lot better than Maniac Cop which had not only the same storyline, it also sports the same monster, Robert Z’Dar. Chuck Napier was the star of The Night Stalker. But whileThe Night Stalker bought the farm, Maniac Cop caught the merry-go-round ying. It did so well, in fact, that my fat brother-in-law, Jef Richard, the line producer of Maniac Cop and, coincidently, my production manager on The Night Stalker, has just started pre-production on Maniac Cop IIThe Night Stalker was just another victim of spineless marketing people who operate under the theory, ‘He who makes no decisions, makes no wrong decisions,’ a common Hollywood virus. Another film I had the pleasure of being a part of, Pumpkinhead, starring Lance Henriksen and directed by Stan Winston fell prey to the same germ.

I may have imagined this but did you get a pretty decent credit placing on Back To The Future for your tramp that witnesses Marty McFly’s vanishing into time and reappearance?

GBF: I was the one line, one day, pleasantly paid, drunk on Back To The Future. I also just finished Back To The Future Part II, but I don’t believe the Spielberg folk gave me any special billing.

Island Of Greed is a well-staged gangster drama of authoritarian corruption set in Taiwan. Super cop Fong (Lau) opposes the ideology and brash lifestyle of politically motivated triad kingpin Chau (Leung). The two men face off in a number of impressively slick stunts, and mind-bogglingly original action scenes. This mimics the magnificent urban scale of American movies like De Palma’s The Untouchables or Cimino’s Year Of The Dragon, but with 007 style flourishes and comedic asides. The Hong Kong superstars are both on top form here. At 40, Lau has already made over 100 films, and balances screen stardom with a successful pop singing career. Leung’s less prolific movie credits include New Dragon Gate Inn, A Better Tomorrow 3 opposite Chow Yun-fat, and controversial 1991 drama The Lover.
Full-scale street rioting between the drivers of rival taxi firms owned by crooks, and the unforgettable climax where a helicopter gunship intercepts the escaping convoy of villains, make this a thriller to savour but it’s the nuanced performances from Lau and Leung that hold it together.
The packaging wrongly states this film is only 95 minutes when it’s two hours. DVD extras comprise a stills gallery, biographies and filmographies, Dolby digital 2.0 sound with English subtitles, and a trailer.

Uppsala, Sweden, at the turn of the 20th century. The Ekdahls are a well-heeled theatrical family. During a long first act, we are introduced to the family, both upstairs and down, as they celebrate Christmas. It’s a happy time for young Alexander (Guve) and his sister Fanny (Allwin) but soon shadows will fall. Their father dies and their mother Emilie (Fröling) marries the local bishop, Edvard Vergerus (Malmsjö). The bishop treats the two children with considerable cruelty and Emilie is powerless to intervene. But help is on its way…
With Fanny And Alexander Bergman announced his retirement from film directing. Although he continued to direct for TV (1984’s After The Rehearsal, which did get big screen showings) and stage, he has kept to that promise. He began his career as a writer and is ending it as one: in his eighties now, he’s written often semi-autobiographical screenplays for others to direct, such as Bille August (The Best Intentions) and Liv Ullmann (Faithless). As with earlier films such as Scenes From A Marriage and Face To Face, Fanny And Alexander was made in two versions, a TV serial and a shorter cinema version. It ran for three hours in the cinema, in which form it won four Oscars (for Best Foreign Language Film, and for its cinematography, art direction and costume design, all thoroughly deserved). The four-part TV version ran five hours, and it’s this that Artificial Eye has released on DVD.
Fanny And Alexander has the air of a summing-up, the extended running time giving Bergman the space to cram in most of the themes that have preoccupied him over his career. Bergman has directed for stage as long as he has for the screen, and the film is steeped in theatre. We see the family at work (the father dies on stage, significantly playing the ghost in Hamlet). Bergman divides the film into the Shakespearean form of five acts, with a short prologue and a longer epilogue. Despite the title this is more Alexander’s story than Fanny’s: it’s very tempting to see him as a surrogate for Bergman himself. Many of the incidents have their basis in autobiography, and we even see the embryonic director at work as Alexander plays with a toy theatre and a magic lantern. The long running time allows a wide range of mood: from the warmth of the Christmas celebrations to the coldness of the middle sections, with warmth returning towards the end.

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Bergman’s great strength has been as a dramatist: with the notable exception of Smiles Of A Summer Night, his comedies have been amongst his worst films. But you could include Fanny And Alexander as another exception, as it expertly counterpoints the light and the dark. Sven Nykvist’s camerawork helps enormously, the colour palette starting with warm reds and oranges, turning to cold blues and greys during the middle section, with warmth returning towards the end. Nykvist won his second Oscar for this film (the first was for Bergman’s Cries And Whispers), which was the culmination of one of the great director and cinematographer partnerships in history. They had been working together since 1960’s The Virgin Spring.
What is interesting is how much fantasy/horror content is in the mix. A whole book could be written about Bergman’s use of fantasy motifs – The Seventh Seal and Hour Of The Wolf most obviously. But also here, in a more ‘realistic’ film: in the prologue, Alexander sees a statue move and has a brief vision of the Grim Reaper (both autobiographical incidents). Ghosts appear at vital moments, especially in a disturbing scene where Alexander meets some drowned children. And finally, one key scene depends on Fanny and Alexander being, miraculously, in two places at once.
It could be argued that most masterpieces don’t break new ground, but sum up all that has gone before. Fanny And Alexander is such a masterpiece, and a conclusion of one of the great directing careers.
Artificial Eye’s DVD is on two discs. The first contains Part 1 (Prologue and Act I, running 91 minutes) and Part 2 (Acts II and III, 75 minutes). Part 3 (Act IV, 57 minutes) and Part 4 (Act V and Epilogue, 83 minutes) are on the second disc. There is the option of playing both parts on each disc separately or together: the latter shortens the running time a little as it skips a closing credits sequence in the middle. The soundtrack is in the original Swedish, in Dolby digital 2.0 mono and fixed English subtitles. The only extras are filmographies for Bergman and Nykvist, plus a stills gallery.

Disco Pigs is the directorial debut feature film of Kirsten Sheridan, daughter of Jim Sheridan who directed My Left Foot (in which Kirsten co-starred as Sharon, the sister of Christy Brown, played by Daniel Day Lewis), and In The Name Of The Father. Edna Walsh has adapted her acclaimed (in Ireland) stage play for the big screen.
Sinead, alias Runt (Cassidy), and Darren, alias Pig (Murphy), are 16-year-olds from Cork. They were born on the same day and have shared such a close friendship that they are spookily twin-like in their appearance and actions. The true story of the Welsh ‘Silent Twins’ springs to mind as a possible source of inspiration. They share their own language, a cross between baby talk, and Cork slang (which at times is incomprehensible), but their behaviour at school, home and on the streets of Cork has become increasingly violent and anarchic over recent years. Parents and teachers fearing that they will never achieve a normal life plan to split them up.
But Pig and Runt are already falling apart and their friendship is put at risk when, on the verge of their 17th birthdays their sexuality is awakened. Runt is slightly disturbed and begins to attract the attention of a fellow schoolmate. But Pig, whose jealously is awakened by Runt’s newfound womanhood, turns psychotic and his pathological jealously and desire to protect her leads to sudden outbursts of violence aimed at both himself and those around him.

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Sheridan has elicited some astonishing performances from the two young actors. They are powerful and raw and leave the viewer in no doubt that they are 100 percent committed to this film. There are some tricky shots which standout as those of a first-time director but, on the whole, Sheridan has managed to maintain an overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia surrounding the enclosed world of the two protagonists.

Paul Hogan, now more leathery-faced than ever, returns in this belated sequel as Mick ‘Crocodile’ Dundee, the canny Australian bushman with an engaging sense of humour about his own absurdly macho antics in the wilderness territory where aborigines raised him. In this third movie, Mick has been domesticated by living with American blonde Sue (Kozlowski), and has an impressionable young son, Mikey, so he’s cautious about the family’s trip to Hollywood, where former journalist Sue is offered a bureau position on her father’s newspaper.
In the business-jungle environs of tinsel town, our straight-arrow hero finds he can work at the film studios training animals for comedy pictures. But, when Sue uncovers evidence of a transatlantic smuggling racket involving location shooting in the Balkans, Mick’s snooping around for clues at his day job soon lands them all in danger…
The essential conceit here, as in the previous films, is a clever variation on the Tarzan story; wherein survival proficiency learned in the inhospitable outback translates into a remarkable ability to cope with the stresses and problems of life in a modern city. At the core of this roughneck charm is the relationship between aged Mick and nine-year-old Mikey. Always conscious of his son’s need for strong parental guidance, Mick worries constantly about revealing his own ignorance of sophisticated LA, while casually taming lions and disarming muggers with ease.
Without any serious attention to detail, this coasts along tiredly on the back of its star’s faded charisma, a scattering of bland one-liners, and a handful of weakly amusing wildlife sketches.
DVD extras: exclusive behind-the-scenes footage (20 minutes), a trailer, Dolby digital 5.1 sound, and subtitles in five languages.

Good fun in its day, this light-hearted TV adventure series about four heroic, yet mercenary, soldiers – on the run from military police as escaped convicts, wanted for crimes they didn’t commit – has little to commend it to 21st century viewers, except (perhaps) for its retro nostalgia value as the classic example of a simpler style of US brand entertainment than audiences now want from studio networks.
Created by the prolific TV-genius Stephen J. Cannell, The A-Team starred the late George Peppard as guerrilla tactician Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith, Dirk Benedict as smooth-talking conman and resources scrounger Templeton ‘Face man’ Peck, Dwight Schultz as half-crazy pilot ‘Howling Mad’ Murdock, and former wrestler Mr T as the army mechanic with attitude problems B.A. Baracus. Aimed at children of all ages, this offered juvenile shoot ’em up thrills; smirking catchphrase dialogues (“I love it when a plan comes together… He’s on the jazz… You crazy fool!”), unlikely but straightforward ways to right social and political injustices, and impressive DIY weaponry assembled with a miraculous efficiency from sundry hardware items.
This third volume in an ongoing series has three episodes from Universal’s TV archive. Bounty features kidnapping for human ransom when a hunting party of rednecks capture the A-Team, Waste ‘Em! has a blind girl menaced by crooks involved in the illegal dumping of toxic waste, Bad Day At Black Rock sees a lady doctor become suspicious of our heroes’ identities when she’s asked to treat walking wounded. None of these 45-minute stories are better than average small screen fodder, even by the show’s hackneyed standards, but they’re all reasonably watchable for throwaway comic asides, wholly uncomplicated plotting and larger-than-life characterisations. Unfortunately, there’s a lack of extra features on these DVD releases, so how much genuine interest is there likely to be from collectors?

“You’re standing in my bedroom, looking through my panty drawer. Who are you?” Jennifer Lopez plays a Chicago cop named Sharon in this romantic mystery drama. She rescued from a bullet by the quick-thinking actions of anonymous depressive, Catch (Caviezel, from Frequency and The Thin Red Line), a guilt-ridden widower who’s living in denial of losing his wife and son in a road crash. Sharon and Catch fall in love and, although there’s plenty of tritely handled psych 101 material lurking in their respective painful pasts – which seems to draw them closer together – can this mismatched couple ‘save’ each other, and find lasting happiness, without sorting out all those bereavement and family problems first?

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She rates highly as a sex symbol with the readers FHM, but the big question is can singer and actress J. Lo act? The answer is, yes, but only to the standards that are required of TV-movie starlets, and that’s not enough to carry a cinema feature film. Angel Eyes is fairly watchable, with a few scenes that are good enough to maintain the interest of your average (undemanding) viewer, but it lacks the level of dramatic impact that’s necessary for any sort of unreserved recommendation. The leads have competent support from Braga and Knight (playing mother roles) but the film’s overly moralistic tone regarding decisive acts of social responsibility is off-putting. Its issues about do-gooders’ intervention in incidents of wife-beating, an absentee father, the black stereotyping of ghetto gangsters and even taking in a stray dog are more than likely to irritate weekend video renters.

Here are three episodes from the TV series created by Donald Bellisario about a helicopter super-weapon. Stolen from US authorities by its inventor, Airwolf falls into the safer hands of reclusive pilot and Vietnam war hero, Stringfellow Hawke (Vincent), who uses it like a very big stick to beat assorted bad guys, and fly special missions for secret agency, the Firm (a thinly disguised CIA). That was the basic set-up. What made this show enjoyable to its crossover action and sci-fi audience was the programme’s generally serious tone (unlike The A-Team, people did get shot and killed in the climactic fire-fights), and its many first class aerial sequences.

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Moffet’s Ghost plays the cyberpunk card, with a sinister presence discovered lurking in computers onboard Airwolf which causes all sorts of problems for the technologically unskilled heroes. Severance Pay warns that spymasters should not attempt to short-change their intelligence gatherers on retirement benefits in case they leak sensitive information for blackmail and revenge. HX1 sees Airwolf challenged by a newer hi-tech chopper that may be piloted by Hawke’s brother, St John, MIA since Vietnam. If you liked John Badham’s 1983 movie, Blue Thunder, this TV variation on the idea is definitely worth a look.
DVD extras: none!