Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Jurassic Inferno!

I'm unduly excited about this post because it's been a long time coming, like, even before I ever dreamed of starting a blog! Poseidon's Underworld is eight and a half years old now (unbelievable to me, in and of itself.) Before I started it, I was a frequent IMDB user reviewer (of 800 titles.) Before that, I was an obsessive movie watcher and chronicler who had visions of penning a film star guidebook (which basically became irrelevant once IMDB was on its feet) and wrote reviews that simply went into a large binder and no further. The germ for this post came about in 1993, twenty-five years ago, when home computers were still fairly new to many people! I wrote about it first in a letter to a magazine editor back when people still did such things.

1993 was the year that Jurassic Park, about the invention of a theme park with real dinosaurs, hit theaters. It's ground- breaking special effects revolutionized the industry standard and the film quickly became the highest grossing film to date (unseated four years later by Titanic.) Thanks to re-releases and a 3D rendition, it still ranks #26 in the list of highest-grossing films of all time. I went to see it three times in the theater, so captivated was I by it at the time (though I don't know if I've ever so much as referenced it on this site before today!) But upon closer inspection, I began to get a feeling for why I liked it as much as I did, apart from the dinosaurs. There turned out to be a few pointed similarities to another favorite of mine, one which was the top-grossing film of its own year two decades prior.

1974 was the year the world was presented with The Towering Inferno, a ground- breaking co-production between two studios, featuring an all-star cast trapped in a fiery high-rise. The gripping disaster blockbuster soared to the top of the box office that year, raking in nine times what it cost to make (and the budget hadn't been scant to start with!) My adoration of Inferno has been well-documented here over the years. I just watched it on Blu-Ray a week or two ago and, just as happens almost every time I see the nearly 3-hour film, as soon as it's over I have the urge to watch it again! Because I've always been so immersed in it since seeing it in the theater at age seven, its structure is ingrained in my mind.

That's what the crux of this post is about. After seeing Jurassic Park, I began to notice that even though the two films seem, on the surface, to be about as different as night and day, they actually share a lot of commonality. This is likely due, more than anything else, to how simply formulaic Hollywood film-making was and is over its long history. Some of these things are no-brainers, some are a bit of a stretch, but all of it is meant to be just fun. I'm not trying to suggest plagiarism or anything of the kind here. Just pointing out a few of my own deranged thoughts. And away we go!

To begin with, both JP and TI feature music from the near-legendary John Williams. While his music for TI was Oscar-nominated, his score for JP wasn't, though he was hardly crying. He won that year anyway for his other Steven Spielberg movie of 1993, Schindler's List.
In both films, the protagonist is headed to an all-new, landmark project in which he has a vested interest. He arrives by helicopter over a vast expanse of water as rousing, almost heraldic music by John Williams plays along.
Chief protagonist of JP is Sam Neill, who will receive full funding of his archeological dig for five years if he signs off his approval on a staggering, one-of-a-kind park featuring real, cloned dinosaurs. TI has architect Paul Newman, back from the wilderness in time to celebrate the completion of his design, the world's tallest building, located in San Francisco. You'll notice that the men are even wearing basically the same sunglasses!
The settings of both films are completely unique. The island of Isla Nubar in Costa Rica, is crawling with potentially dangerous creatures who cannot be found anywhere else. The Glass Tower of TI is a then-unheard-of 138 stories of office and living space. Before long, it will be crawling with flames at almost every turn.
Both locales have a helipad built-in for aid in access (or, hopefully, departure!)
The man in charge of Jurassic Park is an older, bespectacled gent (Oscar-winning producer and director Richard Attenborough) who is seeing a dream come true. The man in charge of The Glass Tower is an older, bespectacled gent (Oscar-winning actor William Holden) who is also seeing a dream come true.
Both men are proud enough (and unknowing enough) to allow their most cherished family members (in Attenborough's case, his young grandchildren - in Holden's case, his only daughter) to come to the place they've built, even though it may not be completely finished and may contain the potential for danger.
Neill has a longtime girlfriend (Laura Dern) who he has yet to propose to. He (she as well) is dirty and dusty and her shoulder length hair hangs freely. Newman has a long-term girlfriend who he also hasn't proposed to, though he wants her to join him in his next venture. Her shoulder length hair also hangs freely and he is unshaven from being in the woods.
When Dern arrives at the Park and when Dunaway arrives at the party, their shoulder length locks are now done up into a twist and they are sporting earrings. (For obvious reasons, Miss Faye wins in the glamour department!)
To stretch the comparison a tad further, the VERY first time we lay eyes on Dern, she's wearing a hat with the brim turned back. The very first time we see Dunaway, she also is wearing a hat with the brim turned back, but we don't actually get to see it in the movie because of the clever way she is introduced, slunk down in a chair with her back to the camera. Newman removes the hat and tosses it aside before we've glimpsed her, hence the black & white still photo from on set here. As a side note, I think it's a credit to the production that, instead of having her leafing through Life or McCall's or any other magazine, she's looking through Architecture Plus, a periodical which would likely have been found on Newman's character's desk, even though it isn't clearly visible in the movie.
Both settings have cavernous lobbies, with multi-layered entrances. Both are so freshly created that they aren't even entirely finished yet. Workmen are still plastering and painting the visitor's center of Jurassic Park while The Glass Tower has elevators that aren't yet operational and other facets that aren't in complete working order (not to mention equipment and debris lying around here and there.)
Both establishments are kept in operation by a substantial computer system. JP's headquarters is chiefly handled by black technician Samuel L. Jackson who, in a slightly annoying performance to watch, has a cigarette in his mouth about 98-44/100ths of the time. TI's tower is kept in check by a heavily-manned security center, headed by black actor O.J. Simpson. Simpson, who was then practically a national hero thanks to his football career, is slightly annoying to watch now because of what he later evolved into, the less said about that the better... Best to just disengage from that while viewing and try to remember what he once signified. In both movies, the high-tech equipment available lets down the people trapped there time and again.
Jurassic Park has a corrupt computer expert (Wayne Knight) whose personal greed causes the near complete destruction of the facility and the loss of many lives. The Glass Tower has a corrupt executive (Richard Chamberlain) whose personal greed causes the near complete destruction of the facility and the loss of even more lives. Chamberlain has a gluttonous need for money and sex. Knight has a gluttonous need for money... and food. Both men perish in rather gut-churning ways, and due to their own selfishness, paying for their misdeeds in kind.
Both places also have a highly loyal employee on hand who will do whatever possible to help resolve the dilemma before them. JP has Bob Peck while TI has Norman Burton. Both men perish in horrific ways despite their loyalty to the company that employs them. By the way, I just LOVED Bob Peck's meaty thighs in his khaki shorts and was sad to see him go. In the book, his character survived...
Both movies force the people hoping to survive to dig out the original blueprints of the area in question and refer to them for information.
Both movies depict power failure and the negative impact that it has on the proceedings.
Each of the male protagonists is a man who is either unfamiliar with or generally uncomfortable around children, yet must become intimately acquainted with them over the course of the story. Single, childless Neill and Newman both help a young girl descend from a tall height with her clasped firmly to his back.
Jurassic Park has unmanned Ford Explorers, running along a track, whose see-through glass ceilings allow passengers to look up at all the stunning sights of the location. The Glass Tower has unmanned scenic elevators with see-through glass walls that allow passengers to look out at all the stunning sights of the location.
Both of these mechanisms turn into glass-enclosed, potential deathtraps. In JP, the children are terrorized by a T-Rex who butts up against the vehicle, knocking it off its track and pushing the window out of its frame. In TI, the people in the elevator are terrorized by an explosion that knocks the elevator off its track, with one of the windows being pushed out of its frame!
In both films, the children survive perilous adventures (in JP it's the T-Rex attack, in TI it's the blown-out stairwell) only to be rewarded with gobs of dessert and a brief rest. After this, they are faced with even more terrifying experiences! In JP, the children are pursued through a stainless steel kitchen by vicious raptors. In TI, the children are placed in the scenic elevator which is soon blasted off its track and left dangling by a cable many stories in the air.
Both films separate the protagonist for a substantial period of time from his female love interest. In JP, Neill and Dern finally spy each other across a lawn and she runs into his arms for an embrace. In TI, Newman finally makes his way into the Promenade Room, where Dunaway has been trapped, and they fall into an embrace.
Almost needless to say, neither protagonist has any desire to do further business with the developer who brought them to the place. Neill informs Attenborough that he will not be endorsing the park. Newman declines Holden's offer to build more buildings like the tower all over the world. He even goes so far as to suggest that Holden is a de facto murderer out of his neglectful behavior.
Finally, by the time the destructive forces of each film have had their way, there is precious little left of the locale. As the T-Rex continues to demolish the visitor's center, a banner "When Dinosaurs Rule the Earth" falls to the ground. The Glass Tower is both burned and flooded. The Duncan Enterprises motto "We Build For Life" is shown (admittedly earlier than the climax) ironically slipping down and burning.
Were you surprised by any of this or did you find it interesting? Did I make a believer out of you at all? Have I forgotten anything? Look, I made it through the whole thing and never once tried to make a comparison out of the dinosaur bones of Jurassic Park and the premier fossil of The Towering Inferno, Fred Astaire! Ha ha! (Just kidding, we love you, Fred.) I drew these comparisons at a time when the 1970s disaster movie was being derided by many critics and film scholars (something that often holds true still today!) I wanted to make the point that even though people often looked down their noses at the disaster genre or omitted it from film history publications, it was actually still alive and well, but with a little tweaking. And, in due time, Hollywood returned to the disaster genre once more with things like Daylight (1996), Twister (1996), Volcano (1997), Dante's Peak (1997) and others, virtually all of which I loathed. Titanic was different. I enjoyed that one and saw it three times in release, too, though it ultimately was the film that sent me veering away from modern cinema when I realized just how much of it was CGI, a process I now avoid like the plague...

Friday, February 23, 2018

Fun Finds: Uncensored Magazine, January 1956

We're going "old school" today with our latest Fun Find. Usually our celebrity rags tend to be from the 1960s and '70s, but this one jumped out at me during a combination flea market-antique show in Dayton, Ohio, so I picked it up for $4.00. Unsensored magazine was one of many to dive into the wake of Confidential magazine, one of the most notorious and controversial tabloid publications of the 1950s. (Other imitators included Exposed, Hush-Hush, Revealed, The Lowdown and several more.) Most of the time, I turn magazine pages to pure black & white for aesthetic reasons, but because this one frequently employs the use of red throughout, I've left it in its somewhat yellowed glory.
I don't typically include the Table of Contents page, but because of the letter to the Editors in the left column, I opted to this time. Apparently, the makers of this periodical considered themselves a kinder, more benevolent gossip mag than some of their competitors.  Riiiigghht... I wonder if the Editor-in-Chief's name was Mr. O.E.M.! Ha!
You can see a resemblance between Geraldine Chaplin and her mother Oona O'Neill in the picture at bottom-left. Most of these blurbs lack teeth (except the blind ones, but they're impossible to identify. At first I thought the one in the middle column was about Judy Lewis - Clark Gable's child - but she didn't act on screen until 1958 and that was on TV.)
Take note of the cartoon characters in this two-page spread. I like to pretend that they are Joan Crawford...
...and Bette Davis rehashing gossip on the phone, though I know it isn't possible. Ha ha! Rex Harrison did in fact, with Lilli Palmer's cooperation, obtain a divorce and then marry Kay Kendall in 1957. She then died in 1959 without ever being told the advanced severity of her leukemia.
Broadway dancer and actress Gwen Verdon is the subject of this next article, highlighting her early start in nightclubs, wherein she danced in little more than shiny paint and a G-string. According to this article, she worried a bit that scantily-clad cheesecake photos from those days might resurface the way Marilyn Monroe's nude calendar did.
Choreographer Jack Cole was a forerunner and major influence to Bob Fosse. Verdon (whose mother was a ballerina) suffered tremendously as a child from rickets and almost had her legs broken and re-set by a doctor until her mother placed her in special boots and braces. A 1942 marriage (and baby) drew a halt to her career for five years, but she returned to the stage and to movies.
This is just a composite I made from the next two-page spread, whose headline was separated between the panels. (So you'd know in advance what the story is about... celebs dumping their spouses for a new model version!)
I feel certain that even this "Uncensored" article leaves out many pertinent details of the breakups and marriages described.
Holy mackerel, is that the best pick of Dorothy Towne (Webb) that they could get their hands on for this?! And this article has the nerve to point out the longevity of Spencer Tracy's (!) marriage to his (estranged) wife Louise.
The seemingly never-ending whirlpool of Elizabeth Taylor's love (and marriage) life...
Methinks that Liz and William Pawley, Jr. would have produced some gorgeous kiddos with black hair and blue eyes. Not sure what broke that up. Of course, we now know why "relationships" with Monty Clift and Mr. Hudson didn't pan out.
E.T.'s date to the Oscars, above left, was a three-time All-American and Heisman Trophy-winning halfback whose Army service delayed his pro football career. He eventually worked as an event coordinator for the L.A. Times. At the time of this article, she was but twenty-three!
Whew! A little bit of beefcake, courtesy of silent film legend Rudolph Valentino.
The bulk of this article focuses on the love life of Ms. Glyn, who carried on a variety of affairs, some very longstanding, (before and) after the 1915 death of her husband.
Well, first I had to go and find out WHO Mary Sinclair even was...! The second of three wives for famed Broadway producer-director George Abbott, she divorced him in 1951 (after two years of separation), the same year she became the first ever TV actress signed to a long-term contract (seven years for CBS.) It led to an avalanche of work on the tube over the course of her somewhat brief career.
Eventually she drifted out of TV and lived in Europe where she painted, eventually returning to California where she directed local theatre. She died in 2000 at age seventy-seven, (Remarkably, Abbott lived to be one-hundred-seven!) Sinclair did make a couple of minor TV appearances in the mid-1980s.
Here, operatic movie star Mario Lanza gets no small amount of dressing-down!
The article goes on to berate him for home-wrecking (literally... he was sued for - and forced to pay - $40,000 in damages to one house and $17,000 on another!) and getting too drunk in Las Vegas to keep an appearance, among other things. Lanza died in 1959 at age thirty-eight while attempting to lose weight for an upcoming project.
This article gets testy with Maureen O'Hara, alluding to her relationship with a Mexican attorney and how her (recent) ex-husband was affected by it. Her ex was allegedly a rather abusive alcoholic and, in fact, died of a heart attack at age forty-eight in 1962. O'Hara's relationship with the attorney went on until 1967, though it helped contribute to a rift between her and mentor-ly director John Ford.
O' Hara famously sued Confidential magazine not long after this period and won an out-of-court settlement (as did Errol Flynn and Liberace.) In 1968, she wed for a third and last time to a man from the U.S. Air Force and airline industry, but he perished in a crash in 1978.
I should think this photo of two Greenwich Village men in a romantic clinch would be rather heady stuff for a reader to see in 1956 (though hardly representative of "Cafe Society," which is what the article is geared towards)
Somehow whenever I read an article like this one, filled with innuendo, yet straining not to be too specific, it all just becomes word salad and I can't make head nor tale of its contents! LOL  I'm moving on...
Hmmm... Now this one is more my language. Here we find a pretty brazen article on Henry Willson, Tab Hunter and a few of the other handsome studs that Willson turned into screen stars (creatively renaming each one along the way.) The caption references "Greek" and of course there was the double entendre term of "making" someone.
In the top photo Tab is interacting with a beaver (?) while in the lower one he's on an arranged date with Debbie Reynolds...
This text goes into pretty vivid detail concerning Hunter's youthful arrest for "disorderly conduct." But he survived and continued to perform in movies and on TV (and is still with us today at age eighty-six.) BTW, it wasn't too long before "Touch" Connors lost that nickname and began a lengthy career as Mike Connors (chiefly of Mannix fame.)
Then-current musings on Marilyn Monroe's quest to break out of her bubbleheaded starlet image and become a serious actress.
This was the year that Bus Stop and The Prince and the Showgirl were released.
This article isn't celeb-focused, but I had to include it chiefly because of the second page.
The fascinating new device called "safety belts!" (Good Lord, we're still trying to get people to buckle-up, this time with shoulder straps, too. Sometimes it's the law: "Click It or Ticket!") A rubber protector to keep one from going through the windshield? Or my favorite... a built-in sand dispenser to shoot sand in front of tires on icy roads!!
The Croatian starlet shown here, Lila Andres, only had a brief career in her homeland, but lived to be ninety-four, passing away last June.
Pictured at the top-left is Gina Lollobrigida and at top-right Jovanka Broz, who was (the controversial) Tito's wife from the early-1950s until his 1980 death, though they had been estranged for a few years prior to that. From 1980 - 2013, she basically lived under house arrest by the new regime.
The murder of shady businessman and playboy Serge Rubenstein (whose body was found bound with his mouth taped by a butler) was never solved.
This article goes on to state that George R. Hearst (son of William Randolph) was married four times, but Wikipedia only lists one spouse, Collette Lyons. (They did have to wed twice because it wasn't clear if his marriage to this gal - Sandra Rambeau - was properly annulled yet.
Well... I can probably guess at least ONE "thing" that made Noel Coward tremble just a little bit anyway.... LOL!
The text contains this reference, now hopelessly un-PC: "he was as flat busted as a woman athlete." !! The article goes on to tell a rather staggering tale of how Coward, living alone after his two female roomies left town, was so hot in the sweltering New York City apartment kitchen that he cooked in the nude that a policeman saw him through a window and came to his door over it! Coward gave the officer three glasses of red wine (!) and the officer gave him a pistol to keep for protection in the dicey neighborhood. Oh, and the thing that REALLY got Coward trembling? His bed in the flat had bed bugs!
Due to interest in it, I've scanned the remainder of the Noel Coward story and added it to this post!
Uncensored magazine claims not to go in for sensationalism, but here's an article on how aspiring writers and publishers can increase circulation with it.
By "reporting" on it, they get to provide some of it...!
Interesting to see a feature article on Ari Onassis long before anyone ever heard of President Kennedy or Jacqueline.
Onassis and Prince Rainier III were involved in volatile partnership-turned-rivalry over Monaco and its future plans. Monaco was the subject of intrigue, too, when Rainier's sister Antoinette tried to wrest control of the place, an act that was thwarted when he we Grace Kelly (in 1956) and produced heirs thereafter.
Finally, we have a story on famed restaurateur and raconteur Toots Shor (who used the term "Crum Bums" affectionately towards his celebrity clientele.)
Shor's Manhattan eatery (of which there were ultimately three locations at one time or another) was famous as a hangout for notable names, many of who ate free. Successful as he was, the always generous Shor died penniless in 1977 after his fortunes shifted for the worse.
Not too many incredible ads in this mag, but I thought there was a certain element of campy glamour in the one found above.
Last item: This hooty ad for a Davy Crockett Playhouse Tent. In the mid-'50s, Davy Crockett was all the rage thanks to a Walt Disney TV presentation in 1954 starring Fess Parker. Even though this is "Only $1.00 Complete" you'd better also have a folding card table, one that Mom & Dad aren't using for Canasta anytime soon! This thing intended for "frontier and pioneer" enjoyment was just a piece of plastic that slipped over a standard card table! No wonder the kid is on his knees...