Category Archives: Roddy McDowall

Remembering D-Day.

This is a movie blog, so we’ll pay tribute to those who fought on the beaches of Normandy via color stills from The Longest Day (1962, which is in glorious black and white CinemaScope), itself a tribute to the many sacrifices that helped push World War II toward its end.

Here’s the crew hard at work recreating the events of June 6, 1944.

Richard Burton (as Officer David Campbell) and Richard Beymer (as Private Dutch Schultz). Burton took time off from Cleopatra (1963) to shoot his scenes. Cleopatra was bleeding 20th Century-Fox dry at the time, which had a huge (negative) impact on Darryl Zanuck’s budget for The Longest Day.

Robert Mitchum as Brigadier General Norman Cota.

Richard Todd as Major John Howard. Todd’s voice is one of God’s great gifts to mankind — I would listen to him (or Richard Burton, for that matter) read the phone book.

John Wayne as Lt. Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort.

From the Army’s website: “The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 Soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s crack troops.”

To quote John Wayne in an entirely different movie (John Ford’s She Wore A Yellow Ribbon): “Lest we forget.”

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Filed under 1962, 20th Century-Fox, John Wayne, Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Roddy McDowall, Sean Connery

Making Movies: The Poseidon Adventure (1972).

Here are some behind-the -scenes shots of the terrific model work for The Poseidon Adventure (1972).

Getting ready for the wave to tip over the model ship.

What it looks like in the finished film.

A diver works on the model, post-wave.

It’d been years since I’d seen it, and my entire family watched it the other night. It holds up well — the movie, not the ship. One of the things that really makes the movie work, aside from performances that help us get past the soap-opera first couple reels, are the incredible upside-down sets. They sent me looking for some making-of images immediately, but about all I found were these model images.

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Filed under 1972, 20th Century-Fox, Ernest Borgnine, Gene Hackman, Making Movies, Roddy McDowall, Stella Stevens

Blu-ray Review: The Legend Of Hell House (1973).

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Directed by John Hough
Executive Producer: James H. Nicholson
Screenplay by Richard Matheson, based on his novel Hell House
Music and Electronic Score by Brian Hodgson and Delia Derbyshire of Electrophon Ltd.
Director of Photography: Alan Hume
Editor: Geoffrey Foot

Cast: Pamela Franklin (Florence Tanner), Roddy McDowall (Benjamin Franklin Fischer), Clive Revill (Dr. Lionel Barrett), Gayle Hunnicutt (Ann Barrett), Roland Culver (Mr. Deutsch), Peter Bowles (Hanley), Michael Gough

Horror movies are a personal matter. What you like in a horror film is largely dependent on what scares you, personally—if you even like to be scared in the first place. Legend Of Hell House (1973) doesn’t show us much at all, but it certainly suggests that all sorts of nasty, unseen things are swirling around, and they don’t like us very much.

That, to me, is scary. And the fact that this film’s been lovingly brought to Blu-ray by Scream Factory, that’s something to celebrate.

A dying millionaire hires a physicist (Clive Revill) to assemble a team—including a couple of mediums, to spend some time in the “Mount Everest of haunted houses,” and determine if there is life after death. And do it quickly. The team quickly discovers that this Mount Everest is a very difficult climb.

The house had once been the abode of the Crowley-esque Daniel Belasco.

Ann Barrett: (Gayle Hunnicutt): What did he do to make this house so evil, Mr. Fischer?
Benjamin Fischer: (Roddy McDowall): Drug addiction, alcoholism, sadism, bestiality, mutilation, murder, vampirism, necrophilia, cannibalism, not to mention a gamut of sexual goodies. Shall I go on?
Ann Barrett: How did it end?
Benjamin Fischer: If it had ended, we would not be here.

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There are plenty of things that make The Legend Of Hell House work as well as it does. For starters, there’s the script by Richard Matheson, based on his book Hell House, with enough new ideas in it to make you forget you’ve already seen 463 haunted house movies. There’s a cast dedicated to, and entirely capable of, putting the whole thing over. And there’s solid direction from John Hough to keep everything plenty spooky and briskly paced. But it’s got a couple of real aces up its sleeve: the cinematography of Alan Hume and an electronic score by Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson—both of which are served well by this new Blu-ray.

Cinematographer Alan Hume’s career went from the Carry On films to a few Bonds (including 1981’s For Your Eyes Only) to The Return Of The Jedi (1983). Scattered in between were horror films such as Hammer’s gorgeous Kiss Of The Vampire (1963) and At The Earth’s Core (1976). Hume and John Hough had worked together on TV’s The Avengers before tackling The Legend Of Hell House.

Alan Hume: “Shock value played a significant element, and I think we achieved it wonderfully with good camera movement, lighting and some good editing by Geoffrey Foot.”

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Hume and Hough’s odd camera angles and lens selection create a real sense of unease that runs through the film, helped along by the electronic score from Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson (a soundtrack CD would sure be a great thing) and top-notch sound design. The tone is set within the first few minutes and never lets up.

The Legend Of Hell House. l-r Roddy McDowell and Clive Revill.

The way I see it, the best thing you can say about a video transfer is that it doesn’t look like a video transfer at all. It should look like the film it came from, with real grain and blacks that are indeed black. Of course, you can spiff things up a bit, but the film itself is the yardstick you measure these things with. Now I’ll get off my celluloid soapbox and say that Scream Factory has made sure The Legend Of Hell House looks like film. Seventies movies have a look and texture all their own, and they’re perfectly represented here. Highly, highly recommended.

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A brief aside: Our daughter had been home just a day or two when I found myself laying on the couch, with her laying on me. My wife was in bed, exhausted. I was a brand-new dad, but knew enough to avoid waking up an infant that had finally gone to sleep. So digging around for a DVD was out of the question. The TV and satellite remotes were handy and I was lucky to come across The Legend Of Hell House (1973). It was like an old friend had dropped by, and I was delighted to see it again. And share it with our three-day-old (who wasn’t scared a bit).

Source: A Life Through The Lens: Memoirs Of A Film Cameraman by Alan Hume and Gareth Owen.

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Filed under 1973, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Roddy McDowall, Shout/Scream Factory