Category Archives: LBoM: In Memorandum

Spam, Spam, Spam, Terry Jones, Spam, Spam And Spam

I really don’t think I can write anything that hasn’t already been said about Monty Python. A pioneering group of comedians who changed British, and indeed, the world of comedy forever. I could sit here and talk about things like the parrot sketch, the lumberjack song, silly walks, spam and all that… but it’s been done hundreds of times over already

The sad news of Terry Jones’ death, while upsetting, was hardly a shock. He’d been suffering from dementia for a while now. He was diagnosed with the awful disease back in 2015, or as he put it…

“I’ve got dementia, you know. My frontal brain lobe has absconded.”

–  Terry Jones

Yet even while on limited time and slowly loosing his humanity, his mind, his very person, he still remained active. According to Terry’s very close friend and fellow Python, Michael Palin, Terry loved to go for long walks, enjoyed a beer, loved watching classic movies and would talk as much as he could, right up to the point where the dementia eventually took over. Having lost family members to dementia myself, I know just how soul destroying it is.

Terry Jones

I can’t really remember how or when my love of Monty Python began, but I do remember my older brother having a copy of Monty Python and the Holy Grail on VHS and us watching and re-watching it, almost to the point of it becoming religious. It was probably the first film that I recall that I could watch and watch, yet never get bored of it. I knew all of the dialogue by heart and would quote the film in every day life. I could re-enact scenes with pinpoint accuracy. Knew the lyrics to all the songs (“I have to push the pram a lot.”). I loved and still love the absurd silliness of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Of course, there were more Python films. The epicly funny and hugely controversial Monty Python’s Life of Brian and the bizarre Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. They did several live shows over the years including a reunion with all the remaining Python members in 2014, Monty Python Live (Mostly). This was where his fellow cast first noticed something was not right with Terry. He was known among his colleges to be fantastic at remembering lines. But during this live show, he had to rely on cleverly hidden cue-cards and a teleprompter to deliver his dialogue correctly and on time. If you have ever seen the show, then you can really tell Terry was struggling at times, yet he still did it for the fans and for himself.

Terry co-wrote and directed all of the main Python films, but his talents went way beyond just being part of one of the most famous and influential comedy troupes ever. He had a very successful TV and movie career outside of all the Monty Python stuff as a writer, director and actor. He wrote the screenplay for one of my all time favourite childhood films…

Labyrinth

Labyrinth, a wonderful melding of Jim Henson’s puppets, fantasy story telling and David Bowie’s codpiece. Loved this film as a child and still adore it today. You can really tell Terry wrote this one, the humour is there, it has that distinct Jones flavour and style. Terry also wrote and directed the overlooked Absolutely Anything. A fun comedy about a man (Simon Pegg) who is given the power to have/do anything he wants by some aliens… who are all played by the other surviving Pythons. It’s also the final film of Robin Williams.

Terry also loved history and wrote many books covering medieval history for children and adults. Terry Jones’s War on the War on Terror was a collection of articles and editorials published as a paperback condemning the Iraq War. He also wrote several poems that were featured in the long running Poetry Review magazine. In 2016, Terry Jones received a Lifetime Achievement award for his outstanding contribution to television and film.

There is just way too much to cover that this man was responsible for. His talent never seemed to end. He was funny, articulate, charming, clever and sadly, now gone.

I guess there is only really one way to bring this article to an end…

Life of Brian

Terry Jones 2

“I don’t think people who have children are acting selfishly or unselfishly. Having a child who’ll be loved, to parents who love each other, is the important thing.”

–  Terry Jones

The Film That (Probably) Killed John Wayne And Several Others

Hey folks. So first off and for my regular readers. I know I didn’t publish much on this blog last year. I was busy concentrating on other writing projects and that’s pretty much how things will be this year too. I made some great connections in 2019 and got my foot in a few doors, wrote a lot, published 2 books and almost finished a 3rd too, which I’ll be publishing in the next couple of months. Then I also have a few other big writing projects simmering away for 2020. So I won’t have the time to dedicate to this blog as I have in the past, but I’ll still be publishing a few articles through the year as and when I can.

And for my first article of 2020, I take a look at the film that most probably caused the death of one of Hollywood’s greatest acting legends, as well as other connected deaths and some interesting tit-bits about the film as a whole…

The Man

Marion Mitchell Morrison, a.k.a John Wayne, a.k.a The Duke. One of the all time Hollywood greats, a true tough guy known for playing heroic cowboys, cops, soldiers and much more. A multi-award winning/nominated actor, including winning the Oscar for Best Actor in 1963 for the film True Grit. A man with a worldwide fanbase that included my granddad. As a child growing up, I remember whenever we’d go round to visit my grandparents, granddad would always have his films on and 9 times out of 10, it would be a John Wayne flick.

John Wayne 2

It was the 11th of June, 1979 when John Wayne died of stomach cancer… but the fact he died of cancer is not that unusual. He was a heavy smoker and had a 6 pack a day habit. It’s the fact that more than 90 other people who all worked on the same film as John had developed some form of cancer and by 1980, 46 of those had died from the disease. That film was 1956’s The Conqueror.

The Film

I guess that today, some would call the film “racist” or “culturally inappropriate” due to the fact that white American actor John Wayne plays the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, complete with some questionable make-up to make him darker and appear more Mongolian. But even if we ignore the slight racism by today’s standards… it’s just not a very good film at all. It was critically panned when released and has gone down in cinematic history as one of those “so bad it’s good” flicks.

The Conqueror poster

Directed by Dick Powell, produced by Howard Hughes (yes THE Howard Hughes) and starring John Wayne along with Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead and Pedro Armendáriz. The Conqueror is a hot mess of a film. From terrible miscasting to a nonsensical and boring plot, with some of the worst dialogue you’ll hear in a movie…

“I feel this Tartar woman is for me.”

– John Wayne

The Conqueror tells the story of Genghis Khan (John Wayne) falling in love with, Bortai (Susan Hayward). When Genghis Khan kidnaps Bortai, he kick-starts a war. Long story short, there’s some fighting, betrayal and Bortai ends up falling for the Mongol chief and they live happily ever after. As stupid as the plot is… it is loosely based on fact… very, very loosely.

As I said before, The Conqueror is a terrible film and is considered one of the worst films ever made and definitely one of John Wayne’s poorest flicks. It’s terribleness and being slated by critics at the time led to the closure of legendary production studio RKO Radio Pictures due to losing so much money. And if killing off a world renowned film studio was not enough, it could be argued it also killed off a lot of it’s cast and crew too.

The Cancer Controversy

And so we get to the meat of this article, just how can a film give more than 90 people cancer? Well it all boils down to where they chose to shoot the film… in the vicinity of a nuclear weapon testing site. Pretty much all exterior shots were filmed at St. George, Utah which was several miles downwind of the United States government’s Nevada National Security Site. The same location with a good chunk of nuclear fallout from testing during Operation Upshot–Knothole in 1953. And if that was not bad enough, then Howard Hughes paid to have 60 tons of the dirt from the site shipped back to Hollywood so any filming done at the studio there would match up with the location.

Operation Upshot–Knothole

The deaths include, but not limited to the film’s director, Dick Powell, who died of cancer in 1963. Co-star Pedro Armendáriz took his own life in 1963 after he was diagnosed with cancer in 1960 and learned it became terminal later. Other actors like Agnes Moorehead died of uterine cancer in 1974. Leading lady, Susan Hayward was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1974 and died after suffering a seizure in 1975. Then of course, there was John Wayne himself who died of stomach cancer in 1979.

And that was just the main cast and crew as many others also died from various forms of cancer by 1980 that worked on the film. Then there were cancer scares of people not even in the film at all. Both of John Wanye’s sons, Michael and Patrick visited the location where the film was being  shot and both of them developed cancer related conditions. Michael with skin cancer and Patrick had a tumour removed from his breast. Even Susan Hayward’s son, Tim had to have a benign tumour removed from his mouth. Plus other visitors had to be treated for cancer related illnesses.

Howard Huges

Then we get to eccentric business magnate Howard Hughes who was the main producer on the film. Well if you know anything about Howard, then you know he went a bit off the rails in his latter years… and that’s putting it mildly. He went completely bat-shit crazy. Becoming a recluse, living in a Las Vegas hotel for years and storing his urine in bottles were some of his more tame endeavours. While hiding away from public life, he bought the rights to The Conqueror outright and every single print of the film for around $12 million. He reportedly would watch the film on a loop day and night during his final years before dying of kidney failure in 1976.

Around 220 people worked on the film, an estimated 91 of them developed some form of cancer and a total of 46 of them died due to the disease. And those numbers don’t include visitors to the set or the Native American Paiute extras who also worked on the film but were not credited. So the cancer deaths could very well be higher.

I once read a review of a film where the critic made the jokey comment that the film was so bad that it gave them cancer. Well in the case of The Conqueror that claim could very well be true.

John Wayne 3

“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”

– John Wayne

Rutger Hauer: Like Tears In The Rain…

Very few actors are distinctive and really stand out against the sea of Hollywood pretty boys. Very few actors posses that ‘something’ that you can’t quite explain what it is, but you know it’s there when you see it. Very few actors can play a villain and yet, you enjoy them for it. The great Alan Rickman was one of those very few who we sadly lost a handful of years back. And more recently, we lost another one of those very few.

Rutger Hauer sadly died a few days ago, though his passing was only made public recently. It’s pretty hard to know where to start when remembering an actor as diverse and varied as Hauer, but I do know I want to save the best for last. I guess the best thing to do is start with a brief profile.

Rutger Hauer Gif

Rutger Oelsen Hauer was born on the 23rd of January, 1944 in Breukelen, Netherlands during World War II. In fact, the Netherlands was under German occupation at the time of his birth. Aged 15, Hauer left school and joined the the Dutch Merchant Navy where he spent a year travelling the world. He returned home and signed up at the Academy for Theatre and Dance in Amsterdam for acting classes but soon left to join the Royal Netherlands Army where he trained as a combat medic. Hauer decided to give the whole acting thing another go and and graduated from acting school in 1967.

Rutger Hauer landed a few small roles in his early acting career, but it was in the Paul Verhoeven directed flick, Turkish Delight from 1973 where he really got noticed. He began to take on more roles in his homeland but struggled to breakthrough in America. His American film debut was in 1981 where Hauer acted alongside Hollywood heavyweight Sylvester Stallone in the flick Nighthawks. It’s a rather bland and dull action/thriller but I have to say that Rutger Hauer’s performance is brilliant as the main villain, but most of his scenes were cut out of the released film because (supposedly) Stallone felt he was being upstaged and so requested that Hauer’s part be cut. There’s said to be two versions of the film shown to test audiences at the time. The one with all of Hauer’s scenes, which test audiences loved. Then there is the one with a lot of his scenes removed that was not as popular… yet it was the latter one that was released to the public.

Nighthawks.jpg

Then the following year in 1983, Hauer appeared in a film that many people consider his very best performance, Blade Runner. Here, Hauer played Roy Batty a replicant (kind of an android thing created by man) who was in search of his creator to ask for more life before he dies. Out hunting these replicants is Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) who has been ordered to ‘retire’ any replicants he comes across. Well there’s a lot more to the film than that, but if I were to go into detail, I’d be here all day attempting to explain it. Basically, just go watch Blade Runner (any of the numerous versions), it’s amazing.

Philip K. Dick who wrote the novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? on which the film is based had this to say about Hauer’s performance in the flick:

“The perfect Batty, cold, Aryan, flawless”

– Philip K. Dick

The man himself had this to say in a 2001 interview:

“Blade Runner needs no explanation. It just is. All of the best. There is nothing like it. To be part of a real masterpiece which changed the world’s thinking. It’s awesome.”

– Rutger Hauer

The infamous “Tears in the rain” speech delivered by Hauer’s Batty at the end of the flick was rewritten from the original by Hauer. He then presented it to director Ridley Scott who loved it and included it in the final cut of the film.

Rutger Hauer Blade Runner

After Blade Runner, Hauer finally began to be noticed in Hollywood as the roles started to flood in and he had a steady and respected career through the 80s in flicks such as Flesh & Blood, Eureka and Ladyhawke to name a few. In 1987 he starred in the action picture Wanted: Dead or Alive which is a strange reboot/remake/sequel of the T.V. series of the same name. In this one, Hauer plays Nick Randall an ex-CIA operative turned bounty hunter. Anyway, the character he plays is said to be a descendant of Josh Randall who was played by Steve McQueen in the 1958 T.V. show… which itself was a spin-off of another T.V. show called Trackdown.

Rutger Hauer Blind Fury

Oh and there was the still brilliantly entertaining Blind Fury from 1989 where Hauer plays a blind Vietnam War veteran who is highly skilled with a sword. He sets out to find one of his missing ex-veteran friends. Blind Fury is actually a remake of a Japanese flick called Zatoichi Challenged from 1967. I love this film, it’s a bit silly but it’s meant to be. Blind Fury is an action/comedy/samurai film that’s a lot of fun.

The 90s is where Rutger Hauer’s career really took off as he began to appear in more and more films. Wedlock, Nostradamus, Surviving the Game (love this one), Split Second and of course the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer before the T.V. show even existed. Through the 90s, Hauer was hugely prolific and did a lot of sci-fi  and action flicks. But for me, the main thing from the 90s I’ll always remember him for was the Guinness (Pure Genius) ads here in the U.K. The ads were bizarre, strange, obscure and yet they just worked, they were very ‘Rutgery’. You can check them out here.

 

As the 2000s began, Hauer’s career began to dry up a little, he was still working but you didn’t see him all that often until the awesome 2005 comic book bought to life flick Sin City where he played Cardinal Roark. After Sin City, Rutger’s career took off once more and he continued with his very successful career all though the 2000s. He appeared in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy with Batman Begins. But my favourite film of his from the 2000s was the overlooked, black comedy, exploitation flick Hobo with a Shotgun. This one is so ridiculously over the top and stupid that it’s genius. The title tells you the whole plot, Hauer plays a hobo who get a shotgun and cleans up the neighbourhood. It’s a stylised, 70s exploitation flick and it’s glorious.

As well as film work, Hauer had a successful T.V. career too appearing in shows like Alias, Smallville, True Blood, Porters and many more. He even featured in a couple of video games with Observer and Kingdom Hearts III.

Of course Rutger Hauer fans reading this would’ve noticed a glaring omission from his acting credits I’ve not yet covered. As I said earlier, I’ve saved the best for last…

Rutger Hauer The Hitcher

Many people including Hauer himself say that Blade Runner’s Roy Batty was his best performance. But for me it was John Ryder from the 1986 psychological horror picture The Hitcher. This is Rutger at his most ‘Rutgerist’. He’s cold, manipulative, dark, murderous, twisted… and yet utterly charming and endearing too. This is that ‘something’ I alluded to before when an actor had that thing that just works and is perfect casting. There is a great mystery surrounding the character, one that film fans have theorised over for years and I aim to offer my own view soon-ish.

The Hitcher is a tense and suspenseful horror flick that really lacks things like blood and gore. It’s more about cerebral horror. The film was pretty much a commercial flop when released and  slated by many respected critic at the time.

“This movie is diseased and corrupt. I would have admired it more if it had found the courage to acknowledge the real relationship it was portraying between Howell and Rutger, but no: It prefers to disguise itself as a violent thriller, and on that level it is reprehensible.”

– Roger Ebert

It’s really quite hard to find a positive review of the film at the time. But all that proves to me is that these critics have no idea what they are talking about. The Hitcher is perhaps too subtle for some people to grasp. It’s not an out and out gore-fest, it’s not overtly violent compared to other horror films of the day. It’s just more indirect with it’s message and has a lot more layers to it than you first realise. As I say, I aim on doing a a much deeper look at Hauer’s John Ryder at some point to highlight what I mean. But The Hitcher is brilliant and by far my favourite Rutger Hauer performance.

As of writing and even though he is now gone, Hauer still has a handful of films currently going through post-production to be released later down the line. So we’ve still not seen the last of the great actor yet.

Rutger Hauer died on the 19th of July, 2019 following an as of yet unspecified illness. He was 75 years old.

“I hate guns, I think they’re the worst thing ever invented.”

– Rutger Hauer

The Boy From The Hood, John Singleton

I was doing a spot of writing last night when “John Singleton Dead At 51” popped up on my news feed. I didn’t pay it much attention to it because of the age mentioned, I didn’t think it could be the same John Singleton I’m thinking of as he was older… so I thought.

Sadly it was the same John Singleton.

I don’t know, I always just thought he was older in his late 60s/early 70s, and there’s a reason why I thought that too – which I’ll get to later.

Born in Los Angeles, California in 1968, Singleton. He lived on the streets and knew some of the characters from his films personally. His life could’ve gone in a very different direction, he could have gone the easy route and turned to crime… but he didn’t Singleton chose films and graduated from USC School of Cinematic Arts in 1990. The next year he wrote and directed his first film. Through the early 90s and Singleton made big waves.

John Singleton 2.jpg

1993’s Poetic Justice starring Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur told the story of Justice (Jackson) who after the death of her boyfriend falls into depression. She begins writing poetry as a form of therapy. Enter Lucky (Shakur) and after a rocky start, the two become close. They go on a road trip with their friends and soon discover how much they have in common. Poetic Justice is an okay film, it’s not bad, it’s not great. But it’s certainly watchable.

Higher Learning from 1995 is a film following the lives of three freshmen at Columbus University and how their lives intertwine, leading to a bloody and shocking resolve.  A film very much of it’s age and one you’d have great difficulty in getting made today. Definitely one of Singleton’s best.

1997’s Rosewood was a departure from Singleton’s style and tone. This was based on a true story, that of the 1923 Rosewood massacre in Florida. With an impressive cast including; Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Jon Voight and Michael Rooker. When a small town becomes the target for racists, the residents learn to stand up for themselves and fight back. Things get violent and bloody as the small town fight escalates into riots. Rosewood wasn’t a commercial success, it lost money. But critics loved it and rightly so, with some claiming it to be Singleton’s best film. Well worth watching.

In 2000, Singleton brought back one of cinema’s greatest characters…

Shaft

Shaft… not a remake as many people erroneously claim of the 1970s films but a sequel starring Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson plays the nephew of the original John Shaft from the 70s flicks. The original Shaft is even in this film. When NYPD cop John Shaft (Jackson) investigates a clearly racially motivated murder and the killer gets off due to his connections, Shaft quits the force and becomes a private detective (just like his uncle). He then takes to the streets to track down and bring the killer to his own brand of justice.

Shaft was a cracking flick. It was hardly high art, but it wasn’t aiming to be. It’s an action romp and Jackson playing John Shaft is amazing. The film was so good that only a short nineteen years later and it’s getting a sequel (confusingly) also called Shaft with three generations of Shafts kicking ass. Though John Singleton had nothing to do with this one…

Singleton’s career continued through the 2000s as a writer, director and producer with films like Baby Boy, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Four Brothers and Abduction to name a few all with varying degrees of success. In the later years, Singleton turned his talent to T.V. directing episodes of Empire, American Crime Story and Billions. He even co-created, wrote, directed and produced the T.V. show Snowfall. Oh and he directed the Michael Jackson (I’m not afraid to use his name) music video Remember the Time in 1992.

Of course there’s one film I’ve not yet mentioned, John’s first from 1991 and the reason I always thought of him as being older…

Boyz N The Hood.jpg

Boyz N The Hood was one of those early 90s “gangsta” flicks that were popping up everywhere back then. There was this surge of black, urban films doing the rounds as gangsta rap exploded on the scene and most of the films were terrible. Some were good and a very small number were amazing. Boyz N The Hood fell into the latter. The film was and still is genius and for me John Singleton’s best ever film… sadly. I mean that as it’s a shame he’ll never get the chance to try and better it.

The film tells the tale of childhood friends Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.), Darrin “Doughboy” (Ice Cube), Ricky (Morris Chestnut) and Chris (Kenneth A. Brown) living and growing up in South Central, Los Angeles. The film starts in 1984 and shows the friends dong what 10 year old boys do… getting into trouble. The film jumps forward to 1991 with the kids now grown up and young men. Their friendship is tested and it looks like the boys might be splitting up for various reasons especially with both Tre and Ricky wanting to better themselves and get away from the life of crime that Doughboy and Chris seem to enjoy.

With an impressive cast including; Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett and Nia Long. Honestly, this flick is brilliant. This is Singleton at his rawest, he was only twenty three at the time and yet he wrote and directed this? For someone of such a young age, that’s impressive. That is why I had always though of Singleton as being older, because this film does not feel like a person just out if his twenties wrote and directed it. This flick feels like a much older man as behind it and I mean that in a respectful way. I’ve seen films from people who have been in the industry for decades that are not as well written and directed as Boyz N The Hood. There’s a lot of maturity here, a lot of pathos. A level of experience with emotions I thought came from a man in his late thirties/early forties not someone who was aged just twenty three. You want to know what I was dong at that age? Not writing and directing such a brilliant film. I love this flick so much that I have it playing as I write this…

Boyz N The Hood TV

Singleton was and still is the youngest person to ever be nominated for a directors Oscar as well as being the first black man (no I’m not using the term “African-American” as I don’t see an issue with colour. Love your skin man) too for this film. Sadly he didn’t win, he lost out to The Silence of the Lambs (directing) and Thelma & Louise (screenplay). And as great as those two films are, they are nothing compared to Boyz N The Hood. The Oscar board were wrong, so very, very wrong.

Singleton suffered a stoke on 17th of April, 2019 and was placed in intensive care. He fell into a coma on the 25th and on the 29th, he was taken off life support and died aged just fifty one.

John Singleton changed black cinema forever and his influence will be felt for many years to come. The boy from the hood did good.

John Singleton BnW.jpg

“The cinema saved me from being a delinquent. I could have been, but I didn’t get caught up. I never was going to get arrested or anything.”

– John Singleton

Dick Miller, One Of Hollywood’s Greatest Character Actors.

I don’t have time to do a full and detailed look at the life of the recently deceased Dick Miller as I’m fully immersed in writing my novel right now. But I just had to do this, a quick remembrance from me to one of my all time favourite character actors who recently died aged 90. So I apologise in advance for the lack of material in this one, Mr Miller deserves so much better.

Dick Miller Young.png

Many people may not recognise the name, but the face is a different matter. Everyone has seen a film with Dick Miller in it… everyone. He started his career back in the 1950s with low budget horror flicks like It Conquered the World, Not of This Earth and A Bucket of Blood directed by schlock master Roger Corman. Dick also appeared in the original film version of The Little Shop of Horrors as well as turning up in The Dirty Dozen in the 60s. His career has spanned from the 1950s right up to 2018. He never really made a leading man but would always pop up in smaller roles in some of my most favourite moves ever, The Terminator, Gremlins – he even turned up in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. He would often play a character called Walter Paisley or same variation of the name, which started back in the Roger Corman days.

dickmillerterminator

Outside of his move career, Dick also had a good few strong T.V. appearances. Shows like The Flash (original version not the new one), Tales From The Crypt, Eerie – Indiana, Fame and Star Trek: The Next Generation to name just a few. As well as doing voice acting in animated movies, T.V. shows and even video games. He was a very busy man.

Dick Miller was one of the most recognisable faces in movies and T.V. even if the name didn’t ring a bell. He will be sadly missed. Dick passed away on 30th of January, 2019 aged 90.

It’s funny, looking at a picture that’s 50 years old and seeing that it hasn’t lost any of the… what’s the word? Magic, they had magic. They were cheap. They were inexpensive to make, but they’ve held up for 50 years.

– Dick Miller

East Bound And Down: Farewell To A Legend

Its funny – I was writing an article covering the Smokey and the Bandit films (its one of the many articles I have in my backlog) when the sad news about Burt Reynolds death hit my news feed. So I’ve put the Smokey and the Bandit article on hold for a while as I remember the man that made Bandit such a memorable character in the first place.

Born Burton Leon Reynolds Jr. on the 11th of February, 1936 in Lansing, Michigan. In 1946 his family moved to Riviera Beach, Florida where Reynolds attended Palm Beach High School and he quickly made a name for himself as an American football player. Looking to peruse a career in the sport, Reynolds received multiple scholarship offers and after graduating from high school he attended Florida State University on a football scholarship. He suffered a knee injury in his first game of his sophomore season so had to sit out the rest of the season. The same year, he was involved in a car accident and lost his spleen and severely injured his other knee as a result, which brought a swift end to his professional American football dreams.

Burt Reynolds Football

Later, he attended Palm Beach Junior College and studied English under Professor Watson B. Duncan III. It was Duncan who suggested that Reynolds try a bit of acting and cast him in a play he was producing, Outward Bound. Reynolds won the 1956 Florida State Drama Award for his performance and got bit by the acting bug. Burt Reynolds made his Broadway debut in the play Look, We’ve Come Through and received many positive reviews for his performance too. He went on to act in several more plays. It was the late 50s when Burt decided to move to Hollywood and try for a movie career but found it hard to land any roles. So he took jobs working in restaurants waiting tables and washing dishes to make ends meet.

Burt Reynolds Young

Reynolds eventually landed some very small TV show roles before making his film debut in 1961’s Angel Baby. More TV roles followed including parts in Riverboat and Gunsmoke, his TV jobs led to starring roles in low budget flicks like Navajo JoeImpasse and Shark! through the 60s. In the late 60s, Burt was even offered a huge role from legendary film producer Albert R. Broccoli in when he was offered the James Bond role after Sean Connery announced his retirement from the prestigious part, a role that would have shot him to super-stardom. Obviously Burt never took the Bond role stating…

An American can’t play James Bond. It just can’t be done.

– Burt Reynolds

It was in 1972 when Reynolds would make his big breakthrough in the movie Deliverance. Based on the novel of the same name, Deliverance is a tense and taught thriller that earned three Academy Award nominations. Full of brilliant and memorable scenes such as the awesome Dueling Banjos and the controversial “squeal like a pig” moments. The film tells the story of four city men out on a canoe trip down a river. Lewis Medlock (Burt Reynolds) and Ed Gentry (Jon Voight) are the experienced ones of the four who are more than conformable with the outdoor life. While Bobby Trippe (Ned Beatty) and Drew Ballinger (Ronny Cox) are virgins to wilderness. The quartet cross paths with some locals and rub them up the wrong way. The guys head to the area where they aim to start their canoe trip and that’s when things begin to unravel.

Burt Reynolds Deliverance

Deliverance is an amazing flick and Reynolds really comes across as a leading man in it too. Burt even went on later to say that he felt Deliverance was the best film he ever did. Despite the serious tone of Deliverance, through the 70s Reynolds became mostly known for his comedic roles. Films such as 1973’s White Lightning and Lucky Lady from 75 and of course the picture that would cement him as a true Hollywood star and comedic actor, Smokey and the Bandit.

As I said earlier, I’m actually writing a dedicated Smokey and the Bandit article where I will go into the film(s) in more detail. So just a light glossing over here but Smokey and the Bandit is one of the all time great and classic flicks. A fast paced car chase movie full of action, comedy and some light racism…it was a different time in the 70s. The film was written and directed by Hal Needham. Reynolds and Needham would become close friends and the two would form a great partnership collaborating several times from this point onward. In short, I fucking love Smokey and the Bandit and it was the film that made me a Burt Reynolds fan.

Burt Reynolds Bandit.jpg

Reynolds also made his directorial debut in 1976 with Gator – the sequel to his earlier film, White Lightning. More films with Hal Needham followed though the late 70s and 80s including Hooper where Reynolds plays “The Greatest Stuntman Alive” Sonny Hooper. Smokey and the Bandit II followed in 1980. With The Cannonball Run from 1981 being another Needham/Reynolds classic team up.

The Cannonball Run is about a group of car enthusiasts who take part in a cross country race. JJ McClure (Burt Reynolds) teams up with Victor Prinzi (Dom DeLuise) and his alter-ego Captain Chaos to take on some of the biggest names in entertainment to win the big race. This film really is star-studded, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. all feature in this one, oh and Jackie Chan in one of his first American film roles too. The sequel Cannonball Run II came out in 1984 and its just as high octane and madcap as the first film.

Burt Reynolds Cannonball

Reynolds career remained fairly steady though the 80s as he appeared in multiple films trough the decade. But his star power started to wane though the 90s and his film roles became smaller or he just starred in some pretty bad flicks. It got to a point when in 1996, Burt had to declare bankruptcy. Partly due to his over extravagant lifestyle and partly due to his divorce from then wife Loni Anderson. Then in 1997, he made an amazing comeback and burst back onto the big screen with the Paul Thomas Anderson directed Boogie Nights. A film that was inspired by the story of real life porn star John Holmes.

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Boogie Nights is a brilliant film that focuses on the porn industry without actually being about porn. With a multitude of characters all crossing paths to tell an interweaving story about the rise and fall of porn star Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg). Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) plays the porn film director who struggles with the changing times and falls from grace as the film progresses.

After Boogie Nights, Reynolds had a career boost, He’d never reach the highs of that late 70s and 80s era again, but he was getting more and more work as the 2000s approached. He not only got roles in movies and TV, but video games too when he played Avery Carrington in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and with Saints Row: The Third where he played himself. Burt also played a small role in The Longest Yard from 2005, which was a remake of his 1974 film of the same name. He maintained a steady career though the 2000s and even landed a role in Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…but sadly that’s a role he never got to play.

Burt Reynolds Tarrantino

Burt Reynolds died in the 6th September, 2018 of cardiac arrest after suffering from heart problems in recent years.

Burt was good looking, charming, talented and had a laugh that will remain in my head forever. I’m going to miss that moustache sporting, cowboy hat wearing sun of a gun. A true legend and one that will leave a huge gap in the world of movies.

Burt Reynolds Hat

Marriage is about the most expensive way for the average man to get laundry done.

– Burt Reynolds

Cha-mone! Michael Jackson In Movies And Games

Today would’ve been The King of Pop’s 60th birthday. So to celebrate and remember the man, I’m going to take a look at MJ in movies and video games. From main, starring roles to smaller cameo appearances.

Regardless of what anyone thinks about his more than bizarre personal life, one can not deny that Michael Jackson was one of the finest singer/song writers ever. He amazed millions of fans around the globe with his performances from huge and epic world tours to single show stopping smaller appearances. I mean just look at the 1983, Motown 25th anniversary where he did Billie Jean live, still one of the single greatest live performances ever.

But I’m not here to reminisce over his musical prowess (well maybe a little), its time to take a look at MJ in movies and games.

The Movies

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The Wiz was Jackson’s first ever film appearance back in 1978. A reimagining of the classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz novel by L. Frank Baum and based on the Broadway musical of the same name. The Wiz was an all singing and dancing extravaganza and featured some serious and legendary talent including Diana Ross, Richard Pryor, Quincy Jones and even an uncredited Luther Vandross.

Jackson played the Scarecrow who of course is in search of a brain. MJ belts out quite possibly the most famous song from the entire film, Ease on Down the Road along with Diana Ross. The Wiz was panned when originally released with many critics saying the only saving grace was Michael Jackson. The film has gone on to become a cult classic that really is not worth watching these days, just do a YouTube search for Ease on Down the Road and you’ve seen the best part of the film.

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Next film role for MJ was the music video and short movie hybrid of 1983’s Michael Jackson’s Thriller. After watching the John Landis classic werewolf flick, An American Werewolf in London, MJ contacted Landis and asked him if he’s like to direct a music video – an idea Landis had no interest in. But Landis didn’t want to pass up the chance of working with Jackson who was (at the time) on top of the world as a superstar. So he suggested they get together to make a short movie instead, an idea Jackson loved and so the greatest music video of all time, Thriller was born.

Landis had his friend, long term collaborator and legendary make-up artist Rick Baker on hand to provide the special effects and make-up – which still look stunning today. While Landis and Jackson wrote the screenplay for this short movie. This teaming up created a phenomenon. In 2009, the Thriller video was inducted into the National Film Registry and to this day is the first and only music video to ever receive such an honor.

Off the Wall

At this juncture I just was to ask a question. Why do people consider Thriller to be his best work? It’s often cited as one of the greatest albums ever and don’t get me wrong, it’s a damn good album. But I personally would praise Off the Wall as an overall better piece of work than Thriller. In fact I’d even argue that Bad is a better album than Thriller. Anyway, back to the topic…

Captain Eo

In 1986, MJ once more teamed up with film-making legends for his next project, Captain EO. Jackson worked with George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola for this seventeen minute 3D mess of a film. Shown exclusively at Disney theme parks around the world. Originally, it was only shown from 1986 to 1996, but it was given a re-release following Jackson’s death in 2009. I got to see this film on a trip to Epcot in Disney World Florida a few years back.

MJ plays the titular Captain EO a captain of the spaceship with a crew of aliens. After crossing paths with The Supreme Leader (Anjelica Huston) who demands Captain EO and his crew are to be subjected to torture. MJ busts out some dance moves and sings a couple of songs turning the evil Supreme Leader and her grimy land into a paradise.

Visually, Captain EO is stunning. Just a shame its got a mess of a story, bad acting and a sickly sweet “we can change the world” mantra that Jackson seemed to enjoy shoving down people’s throats back then. This mini movie/music video is no Thriller and a waste of great talent.

Moonwalker

1988 saw the release of perhaps MJ’s most egotistical project…and that’s saying something. The epic opus that was Moonwalker. I’m not entirely sure how one would describe this film as its not really a film so to speak. Its more a collection of music videos, clips and performances, an anthology of everything MJ inspired by his Bad album. The film is split into various sections including; Man in the MirrorRetrospectiveBadder,  Speed DemonLeave Me AloneSmooth Criminal and Come Together.

Each section has its own flavour and style and they all work as mini movies/music videos within one huge movie. There’s no real story or narrative to follow except for maybe the whole Smooth Criminal section where MJ helps some homeless children fight off the evil Frankie “Mr. Big” LiDeo (Joe Pesci). Moonwalker is a huge mess…but one I can’t help but enjoy. There are some amazing highlights including the Badder segment where MJ’s Bad music video is recreated with kids. Speed Demon which picks up directly after Badder and has MJ dancing with a rabbit costume (its better than it sounds). The extended version of Smooth Criminal is also great fun even if the main story of that segment is crap. As I said, Moonwalker is a mess but not without its charm.

Ghosts

Michael Jackson’s Ghosts from 1996 sees MJ team up with some major talent once more for another short movie. With a story from famed horror writer Stephen King and directed by special effects maestro Stan Winston. MJ plays multiple parts in this one, the main one being the owner of a creepy house who entertains children with his magic tricks. The mayor of the town (also played by MJ) takes a disliking to the mysterious owner of the house and so attempts to run him out of town.

I have always felt that this was an attempt to make a new Thriller mini movie…and it kind of succeeds too. Michael Jackson’s Ghosts is a good watch with some amazing effects work and lots of fun to be found that features various songs from his HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I and Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix albums. Its just that…this is no Thriller, but its close.

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Then in 2002, MJ made a quick cameo is the sequel Men in Black II. The film starred Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as the extraterrestrial police (kind of) who have to protect Earth from alien invasions and keep the secret of alien life from the humans.

Jackson played Agent M in a quick appearance on a video call to Men in Black boss Zed as well as also making a voice cameo on a phone later.

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Which all leads to Michael Jackson’s final on screen scripted performance in the comedy film, Miss Cast Away and the Island Girls. A parody film in the same vein as films like The Naked Gun, Airplane!, etc. Again, MJ jut has a small cameo in this playing Agent M.J. who appears as a holographic image.

I’ve never seen it to be honest, not sure if I really want to either. But its there for those that want to see Jackson’s final scripted movie role.

The Games

Michael Jackson’s first appearance in a game was the tie in to his movie Moonwalker. Now things will get a little confusing here as there was more than one version of the game and I don’t mean different ports, I mean completely different games released for different systems and all released at different times through 1990 but all called Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker.

Moonwalker Arcade

I guess I should start with the more famous arcade version first. Published and developed by Sega, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker is an isometric scrolling shoot/beat em’ up style game where you can two friends can team up and all play as MJ (yes three MJs) based on the Smooth Criminal section of the Moonwalker movie. Make your way though levels, take out bad guys, rescue kids and defeat the evil Mr. Big.

It was pretty simple gameplay, typical arcade fare designed to eat your coins faster than  fat person at an all you can eat buffet can eat chicken wings. As simple as the game was, it was also massively playable and great fun. Featuring some of Jackson’s most famous songs and locales from the movie. Perhaps the best part of the game was the Dance Magic move where MJ would dance along to one of his tunes while all the enemies on screen joined in until they could dance no more and are defeated.

Moonwalker Megadrive

Sega and Jackson built up a relationship which led to the arcade game and then versions of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker for Sega’s home consoles with both the Master System and the Mega Drive/Genesis getting their own games. While these games were ports of each other, they were different to the arcade version. Yet they all shared the same basic gameplay with you playing as MJ saving kids, taking on the bad guys and eventually defeating Mr. Big. And yes, the awesome Dance Magic returns too. Where the arcade game was an isometric viewpoint, the home console versions were side scrolling games. These home versions lacked something, the fast paced fun factor just wasn’t there and the game(s) got very repetitive very fast compared to the arcade game.

Moonwalker Amiga

As for the home computer versions, well that was a completely different game altogether. This time developed by Emerald Software and published by U.S. gold. The other games took inspiration form the Smooth Criminal section of the film only, but the home computer game used more elements of the film. This one was split into four different levels. The first being a top down maze-like game with you playing as MJ trying to escape crazed fans while collecting the bunny costume from the Speed Demon portion of the film. The second level was also a maze-like one but now with you on the motorbike from the film and having to collect tokens which will morph you into a car so you can jump a barrier. Level three is inspired by Smooth Criminal and is a side scroller where MJ shoots bad guys with a machine gun. Then finally there is the big showdown between MJ and Mr. Big with Jackson now transformed into a robot (yes this happens in the film) and shoots the henchmen that appear from various openings in the level.

Out of the three versions of the game, the arcade one is still the best to play with the home computer one being not very good at all.

Sonic 3

Next up is a game in which Jackson didn’t appear in person, but did provide music for…possibly. MJ was a huge fan of Sega’s mascot Sonic the Hedgehog and it has been said that he asked Sega if he could provide music for a Sonic game. In 1994 Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog 3 which may or may not include some of MJs music. There are conflicting stories, one says they MJ did provide music for the game but after allegations of child abuse began to rear-up, Sega removed all music MJ had composed for the game. Others claim that MJ was never asked nor did he ask Sega to provide music for the game. Another story says that MJ did compose a few tracks for Sonic the Hedgehog 3 but he ultimately was not happy with the end result and the lack of sound capabilities with Sega’s console so asked for them to not be used. Then another story says that MJ’s music is in the game, but he was uncredited for “legal reasons”.

There is this article by The Huffington Post from 2016 that claims they can prove MJ’s music is in Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Is Michael Jackson’s music in Sonic 3…can’t say I care all that much anymore. Its a story that has just dragged on for years and while I may have found it interesting years ago, now I couldn’t care less.

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Sticking with Sega and MJ popped up in another one of their games…well two actually. He appeared in a cameo for Space Channel 5 in 1999 and again in its sequel, Space Channel 5: Part 2 but in a larger role from 2002. These were dance/rhythm games where you had to follow the on screen prompts in a series of QTEs to pull off dance moves. So MJ fitted perfectly here. Jackson voiced and performed his character himself so he was pretty authentic.

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But between the two Space Channel 5 games, MJ also appeared in the boxing game Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 from 2000. Yes, Jackson was a boxer punching people in the face and everything. Though it has to be said that Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 is a game with its tongue firmly in cheek, it uses comedy a lot – so the MJ in this is very much a parody. Again Jackson provided the voice and even did motion capture for the game. So if you ever feel like playing as a bad-ass boxing Michael Jackson, then you know where to look.

In 2010 after his death, MJ was resurrected in video game form in Michael Jackson: The Experience. This was another one of those dance/rhythm games with you copying the prompts on screen to mimic some of Jackson’s iconic dance moves. Songs such as Bad, Thriller, Beat It, Billie Jean, Smooth Criminal, Speed Demon, Black or WhiteDon’t Stop ‘Til You Get EnoughWanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ and many more were included.

Planet Michael

There was one more game to feature Michael Jackson, but it was never released. Called, Planet Michael the game was a massive online multiplayer game. However, exactly what the game was going to be is anyone guess. Info is very thin on the ground and seems to have been abandoned. The Facebook page still exists and you can find some early concept art easily online. But as the game was originally given a 2011 release date and its now 2018 with no game in sight, I guess we can say its been cancelled.


Well there you go, Michael Jackson’s life in movies and games. A bit of a mixed bag with some worthy entries and some real stinkers too. But I wasn’t here to review any of these titles, just to bring them up and highlight them and to remember Michael on what would’ve been his 60th birthday today.

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Happy Birthday Michael.

Just because it’s in print doesn’t mean it’s the gospel.

Michael Jackson