Archive for the ‘Roger Corman’ Tag

Patrick Magee: Food? All Right?   Leave a comment

A Clockwork Orange

Perenially vexed and menacing with a gravelly voice that retained just a hint of his Irish roots, Patrick Magee played doctors, policemen, military officers, and the occasional psycho in films and television starting in the late 1950s. Though he worked most often on the British stage, Magee alternated theatrical roles with TV and film appearances, working with directors like Joseph Losey, Roger Corman, Francis Ford Coppola, and Stanley Kubrick.

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Kubrick films Magee and Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.

Born in Armagh in Northern Ireland in 1922, Patrick George McGee, who changed his name to Magee, began performing Shakespeare and other classics in Ireland in the early 1950s. After coming to London for a series of Irish plays, he met Samuel Beckett and recorded some of Beckett’s plays for BBC Radio. Beckett and Harold Pinter, who Magee acted with in Ireland, remained close to him throughout his career and the two writers often requested Magee for pivotal roles in their plays and film adaptations. Beckett even wrote Krapp’s Last Tape with him in mind and said, while writing the play, Magee’s “voice was the one which I heard in my head.”

NPG x127341; Patrick Magee as Krapp in 'Krapp's Last Tape' by Ida Kar
These whale songs aren’t as calming as I had hoped.

After a handful of appearances in British television shows including Dial 999 and the BBC Sunday-Night Theatre, Magee started working in small, British crime films like Concrete Jungle (1960), directed by Joseph Losey. Stanley Baker stars in the film about the brutal lives of small-time criminals both in and out of prison. Magee has a small, but memorable part as a sadistic warder.

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Magee sizes up Baker.

Magee married another Armagh native, Belle Sherry about this time and later had twins, Mark and Caroline. Despite Magee’s bouts with alcoholism, the couple stayed married until his death in 1982.

His stoic, aristocratic manner often tinged with cruelty and/or wisdom worked well in his roles in Roger Corman’s The Young Racers and Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13. In the modern gothic horror, Dementia 13, Magee is Dr. Caleb, a creepy physician who seems to live on the estate of the wacky Haloran clan during a series of grisly murders. Until the end of the film, we’re never sure whether Magee is good or evil, but he plays the part like he has a locked room in his house where he keeps his collection of femurs.

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“That’s right, little mouse. Just one more step and you’re in a sandwich.”

Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death (1964) came next. Magee’s evil in this one. Then, in Bryan Forbes’ phenomenal Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964), he’s a police detective tasked with finding a kidnapped child. In Zulu (1964) Cy Endfield’s vivid retelling of the massacre at Rorke’s Drift, he plays a military surgeon. Sensing a pattern here?

Patrick Magee Seance on a Wet Afternoon
“I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV. I’m a detective? Oh. Nevermind.”

The wonderful Amicus film, The Skull, which, by the way, is awesome, has Magee as a police medical examiner and stars a couple nobodies named Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. It also features a malicious floating skull, so you should probably run out and watch it right now.

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The skull in question

In the 1965 film, Die, Monster, Die! Magee and Boris Karloff do Lovecraft and again, he plays a doctor. The film isn’t as good as the title, but it does involve radiation and large plants.

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Not the plant in question

The skull I mentioned earlier belongs or belonged, depending how you look at it, to the Marquis de Sade, who Magee played later in Marat/Sade (1967). The film takes place in an insane asylum in France and has the famous sadist directing a play about good and evil set during the French Revolution. Magee won a Tony for playing the role on Broadway.

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“You’re rushing it. Relax and follow through.”

William Friedkin directed the disturbing Harold Pinter play, The Birthday Party (1968) in which evil torturers, Magee and Sydney Tafler, team up against a vulnerable Robert Shaw. I’m sorry to say I haven’t seen this one yet, but after reading the description, it jumped to the top of my watch list.

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“THAT BOOK WAS DUE ON THE 14th!”

Magee got a chance to do some serious emoting in the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film. A Clockwork Orange. He plays the writer, Mr. Alexander, victimized by Alex (Malcolm McDowell) who exacts revenge using a little Ludwig van, big speakers, and a plate of pasta. Kubrick cast Magee in Barry Lyndon too. In the sprawling epic, he plays sympathetic gambler, the Chevalier du Balibari, who takes young Lyndon under his wing.

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I love Barry Lyndon, but hahahahahahaha.

My favorite Magee performances are in the Amicus films The Skull, Tales From the Crypt, Asylum, and And Now the Screaming Starts!. I’m a big fan of the Amicus portmanteau films and Tales From the Crypt and Asylum, in which he plays a blind man pushed a bit too far, and a doctor in a mental institution, are two of my favorites. All of the films here were directed by Freddie Francis and Roy Ward Baker and they’re terrific.

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“I sat on my keys.”

Magee even shows up in a Charles Bronson classic, Telefon as a Russian KGB officer and in The Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire, as Lord Cadogan, head of the British Olympic committee. His last film roles were in Roy Ward Baker’s The Monster Club with Vincent Price and Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat in 1981. In the Fulci film based on the Edgar Allen Poe story, Magee plays a psychic who converses with the dead and has a cat. When he has a bad day, Magee employs his cat as a hitman hitcat.

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Patrick Magee in disguise

Between the films in this article, Magee also acted in Antigone, King Lear, many television series, and a host of stage plays. He appeared in Krapp’s Last Tape, the play Beckett wrote with him in mind, in the theatre and on TV as a part of the British anthology series, Thirty-Minute Theatre in 1972.

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“I’ll divide my kingdom up and give it away. It’ll be great. Trust me.”

Earlier this year (July 2017), the Ulster History Circle honored the life of Patrick Magee by placing a blue plaque in Edward Street, Armagh, Ireland where he was born. Fellow Irish actor, Stephen Rea unveiled the memorial.

Patrick Magee had a long, successful career in both stage and screen. Though he tended to play authority figures on the edge of sanity, he had the talent to play a wide range of characters. He’s even in two films with exclamation points in the titles, which can’t be bad. Next time you serve your family dinner, remember his patented method to stop unwanted chatter.

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I wrote this piece as a part of the What a Character blogathon run by Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club, Kellee of Outspoken and Freckled, and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen. Thank you, ladies, for organizing this for the sixth time!

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Dementia 13 (1963) Revisited on Blu-ray   4 comments

I wrote a review of Dementia 13 a while back, but that was based on seeing a fairly grainy version on YouTube. Last fall, the lovely people at Film Detective sent me a Blu-ray of the fun horror gem. I had some dumb technical issues so I’m just watching it now. Sorry, Film Detective. I didn’t forget you.


“People get so dramatic when they’re not invited to the wedding.”

Dementia 13 was made in 1963, in black and white, for $40,000. Francis Ford Coppola filmed it, with Roger Corman’s blessing, around the set of The Young Racers, also starring William Campbell and Luana Anders. It’s just 75 minutes long and it’s a terrific little thriller. It’s not a perfect film, but it moves along and the acting is good, especially from Patrick Magee, who plays—surprise—a sinister doctor.


“Oh hi.”

Since I first watched and wrote about this film, I’ve seen it a few times, but it’s never looked this good. The Blu-ray version is crisp and clear and I managed to see more details of Dementia 13 in this viewing than I ever have. It’s a real treat to see a film you like in the best possible way. Director of photography, Charles Hanawalt, uses a lot of natural and dim lighting. That makes sense considering the modern Gothic setting. It also means that in the past, I’ve had to strain to catch details. Not this time.

I enjoyed actually seeing Dementia 13 after all this time. If you’re a fan, the Blu-ray is a must.

Psst…below is my review of Dementia 13, with a few additions.

borg

Fishy fishy in the brook
Daddy’s caught you on a hook
-Nursery rhyme

As John Haloran rows across the lake on his family’s Irish estate, he teases his wife Louise (Luana Anders). If he drops dead, Louise will inherit none of the Haloran wealth. Pro tip: Never annoy your wife in a rowboat…if you have a bad heart. The always resourceful Louise dumps John overboard, packs his suitcase, and tells the family he went to New York on business. She’ll stay at the Haloran castle and get to know them while John’s away. Psst…it’ll be a while. It doesn’t take long for Louise to see just how nutty the Halorans are. Richard (William Campbell) solders bad art and scowls. Billy (Bart Patton) walks around in a fog telling people about his dreams. Lady Haloran, fixated on death and grief, holds funerals to commemorate a funeral. Creepy Doctor Caleb (Patrick Magee) tells everyone they’re doing it wrong in a ‘Get into my van. I have candy.’ kind of way.

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“…and then I crushed its head.”

They’re a fun bunch.

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Weeeeee!

Louise, ever the multitasker, figures she’ll push the already dotty Lady Haloran over the edge using a few props from the nursery while insinuating herself into the family and the will. Her simple plan runs into a snag, however and then the fun really starts.

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If you see this you have gone too far.

Francis Ford Coppola (yes that one), wrote and directed Dementia 13 with some tweaks by Jack Hill (The Bees, Coffy). Coppola gives the film a creepy quality by using odd camera angles and off-kilter close-ups and filming so much of it at night. The look reminded me of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). Even the dim day shots look dismal and give the black and white film an eerie atmosphere.

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Eavesdropping on the funeral.

What’s missing is dialogue and character development. What dialogue there is works, but the characters need more to say to help us get to know them. More realistic conversations might also decrease the tendency toward exposition. Also, for a film set in Ireland, I found the lack of Irish accents from almost all the lead characters somewhat baffling. According to articles on the making of Dementia 13, producer Roger Corman assigned Coppola to make a gory version of Psycho on the cheap so he dashed off a script and went into production. In spite of this and the fact that this marked Coppola’s non-porn directorial debut, it’s a good gothic horror film with a creative plot and some genuinely scary moments. The nifty chamber music by Ronald Stein enhanced the mood as well. I understand why this has become such a cult favorite and I’m glad I finally saw it.

Thanks again to the folks at Film Detective.

Fun fact: Early on in the film, Louise discusses Richard’s girlfriend saying, “You can tell she’s an American girl, raised on promises.” Sound familiar? It’s pretty close to the first lines of the Tom Petty tune, “American Girl”, released in 1976. I can’t find definitive information to link the song lyrics to the film, but it’s a neat tidbit.

quality
A sure sign of quality

shame

Check out cinemashame.wordpress.com for more horrific reviews and @cinemashame on twitter.

I’m @echidnabot on twitter.

October 2, 2014

The Trip (1967)   Leave a comment

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Made during the height of the psychadelic 60s, THE TRIP tells the story of a man taking his first acid trip. Peter Fonda plays the married director of television commercials who decides to try LSD. Guiding him through his psychological journey is Bruce Dern.  Dern looks professorial with his civilized beard, corduroy blazer, and turtleneck. His demeanor differs immensely in his film too.  He’s worlds away from his usual snarling criminal, but no less convincing. Dern will stay sober and remain with Fonda ensuring that if he gets too high or has a bad reaction to the drug, Dern can calm him down. Roger Corman based this film on his own experiences with LSD.  He went on a controlled trip himself and his experiences and that of screenwriter Jack Nicholson make up the bulk of the film.

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“This antelope just wants her babies, man.”

I watched The Trip with director Roger Corman’s audio commentary.  He paints a fascinating picture of maverick filmmaking and the 60s counterculture. Filmed at Big Sur, the Sunset Strip, and beach homes owned by those immersed in that culture, the film looks authentic. Corman says they barely changed the decor of the houses and paid a great deal of attention to detail when dressing the sets. For example, in one scene we can see the book HOWL by Allen Ginsberg sitting on a shelf. He filmed in a real nightclub and laudromat and for one long shot of Peter Fonda walking along the Sunset Strip at night, the cameraman sat in a wheelchair behind Fonda and Corman pushed him down the street.

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“Please look at me.”

To be honest, the film itself, which also stars Dennis Hopper and Susan Strasberg pales in comparison with the stories Corman tells about it in his commentary and the effects he uses to tell it. The cinematographer, Arch R. Dalzell used light, color and psychedelic paint in some cool new ways. During a love scene between Fonda, Strasberg, and Salli Sachse, Dalzell projected wild colors and designs onto the stars’ naked bodies. It looks fantastic.

paint

I enjoyed watching this film, but the commentary made it for me. Corman liked making it very much and speaks fondly of the entire experience. He also gives us some great background stories. During one scene, Dennis Hopper tells a story while a joint is passed around a circle of people. Corman says he was so intent on getting the shot that he barely heard the story. When it was over, others on set laughed because they had never heard the word man so many times. Apparently Hopper was riffing a bit. Bruce Dern, that symbol of the counterculture, never took drugs. He was a marathon runner who tried out for the Olympic team and has always led a very healthy life. You can even see him in a scene in which a joint is passed just handing it to the next guy. If you watch THE TRIP, bring a buddy and opt for the audio commentary. Roger Corman won’t let you down, man.

Bruce The Trip #4

Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)   Leave a comment

leeches

Lem, a moonshiner famous for telling tall tales claims he saw a giant ‘octypus’ while poaching deer near the swamp.  When he goes missing, Game Warden Steve (Ken Clark) and a handful of men search for him.  They find him dead and drained of all his blood.  Still no one in the Florida country town believes Lem’s stories except Steve, his girlfriend Nan (Jan Shepard), and her father, Doc Greyson (Tyler McVey).  Steve and Nan take a boat out on the swamp to search for anything out of the ordinary, but come up empty.  Meanwhile back at the general store, slatternly Liz Walker (Yvette Vickers) teases and belittles her wimpy husband Dave (Bruno VeSota) and takes off to be sleazy elsewhere.  After a bunch of conversation that goes nowhere we find that Doc Greyson wants to dynamite part of the swamp to flush out whatever killed Lem but Steve will not allow it.  Here’s where this film differs from most mutant creature films.  Steve, the game warden takes his job seriously and wants to protect the animals in his jurisdiction.  He won’t allow Doc to dynamite the swamp or do anything else that might harm wildlife in the area.  Compare this to Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) in which the ‘scientists’ throw chemicals, poison, bombs, and everything but the kitchen sink into poor Gilly’s lagoon in the name of science.  I digress.  Back at the general store, Liz puts on her favorite low-cut frock and heads out to the swamp for her date with local creep, Cal.  Liz’s husband, Dave, wielding a shotgun, surprises the couple mid embrace which ruins the mood completely.  He then chases them through the swamp at gunpoint and forces them into the water.  He just wants to scare them though and as they attempt to crawl out of the swamp a couple of slimy, suction cup covered creatures grab the lovers and pull them down into the swamp.  Dave, shocked, tells the police, but oddly, they don’t believe his tentacled fish-man story and toss him in the brig.  The sheriff offers a reward to whoever finds the bodies and two more locals disappear.  Doc Greyson introduces a theory that nearby Cape Canaveral’s radiation may have caused the leeches’ mutation and brings up dynamite again but Steve vetoes his suggestion.  As soon as Steve leaves, the doctor and Nan place charges in the swamp anyway and up come the bodies of three of the four missing locals.  Since Liz hasn’t turned up yet, Steve and a former Navy buddy strap on air tanks and go swamp diving.  An underwater battle between Steve and a giant leech guy leaves the leech wounded and Steve convinced that maybe blowing up the swamp isn’t such a bad idea after all.  A huge blast brings the dead leech and Liz to the surface.  Everyone sighs with relief because the nightmare is over…or is it?   I liked aspects of Attack of the Giant Leeches, but on the whole it left me cold.  The story, written by Leo Gordon (The Terror, Tobruk) held my interest, but the acting was pretty poor and that dragged it down a peg.  The eerie music fit and helped set the stage for bloodsucking fun.  Bernard L. Kowalski (Night of the Blood Beast, Rawhide TV series) uses a fairly straight forward approach to directing.  There’s nothing arty here, but no matter.  A few scenes really stand out.  The scenes in the leeches’ underground lair are pretty creepy.  Watching mutant leeches suck the blood out of their captives and leave their hickey-covered bodies in a crumpled heap made the film worth watching.  All in all Attack of the Giant Leeches is worth a watch and at sixty-two minutes, the leech-filled time flies by.

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