October 27, 1988: E.T. Released on Home Video

On this day in 1988, “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” was released on VHS cassette. This could very well be considered the most anticipated home video release of all time.

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial PosterOn this day in 1988, “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” was released on VHS cassette. This could very well be considered the most anticipated home video release of all time.

E.T.” was first released in movie theaters in 1982 and rereleased in 1985. However, local movie houses would often screen it on Saturday mornings or as past of a drive-in double feature. As a kid, it was always an event to go see “E.T.” in the theater.

When it was announced that the movie would be released on home video six years after its first run in the theaters, my family was one of the 14 million Americans to preorder it.  Although it has not aged well, no movie moved more people in the 1980s that “E.T.

October 23, 2009: Saw VI Released

On this day in 2009, “Saw VI” was released. The sixth installment of the series was one of the more recent examples of a horror franchise carrying on longer than it should.

Saw VI PosterOn this day in 2009, “Saw VI” was released. The sixth installment of the series was one of the more recent examples of a horror franchise carrying on longer than it should.

Back in 2004, two friends and I went to see the first “Saw,” which at the time was receiving a significant amount of critical acclaim. We expected a fresh take on the horror genre, but instead found a grimy, laughable attempt at topping  “Se7en,” not to mention Cary Elwes worst silver screen effort and another phoned-in performance from Danny Glover. Yet the flick was already a box office smash and laughing over dinner, we vowed to see the sequel.

Five years and five sequels later, I was the only one carrying on that tradition, and caught “Saw VI” on opening night. As with the previous five, this installment pitted flawed – actually, lousy – human beings in scenarios where they have to mutilate themselves to stay alive. The first came in the prologue, which featured two predatory lenders literally giving pounds of flesh to stay alive. However, the crux of the plot focuses on a health insurance policy exec whose job duties consist of empowering his staff to find ways to deny coverage to as many sick people as possible. Since the film takes an Oliver Stone-is-too-subtle approach, the filmmakers make it clear about who they think is responsible for the nation’s health care crisis.

Thankfully, the franchise called it quits with the next entry. This final chapter wrapped things up nicely and did not incorporate politics.

October 20, 1987: The Hidden Released

On this day in 1987, “The Hidden” was released in U.S. theaters. This cult classic is one of the more underrated movies of the 1980s.

The Hidden PosterOn this day in 1987, “The Hidden” was released in U.S. theaters. This cult classic is one of the more underrated movies of the 1980s.

Part science fiction, part horror and part crime film, “The Hidden” tells the story of an alien being that inhabits human bodies, steals cars and kills anyone who gets in its way. On its trail are a Los Angeles police detective (Michael Nouri) and an FBI agent (Kyle MacLachlan).

It could be absurd, but a great script and cast and pace that never lets up during its 96-minute run-time make this a great thriller. If you’ve never seen it, you should check it out. Below is the trailer.

October 18, 1975: Al Lettieri Dies

On this day in 1975, Al Lettieri died of a heart attack in New York City. The actor who played some of the 1970s most memorable villains was 47 years old.

Al LettieriOn this day in 1975, Al Lettieri died of a heart attack in New York City. The actor who played some of the 1970s most memorable villains was 47 years old.

Lettieri did not make his film debut until he was 36, appearing in “The Hanged Man.” Sadly, he passed away just as his career was taking off. Here a few of is great performances.

  • The Godfather (1972): His most memorable role was as Sollozzo, the Turk heroin dealer who missed his shot.
  • The Getaway (1972): Lettieri’s best work was as a rotten-as-hell bank robber who gives a housewife (Sally Struthers) a case of Stockholm Syndrome. Next to “Straw Dogs,” Lettieri’s scenes with Struthers are the most disturbing that Sam Peckinpah ever filmed.
  • Mr. Majestyk (1974): One of his final roles as the main heavy taking on Charles Bronson shows that Lettieri could have been an asset to hard-boiled crime pictures for years to come.

October 12, 1940: Tom Mix Dies in Car Wreck

On this day in 1940, Tom Mix died in car wreck south of Florence, Arizona. The icon of silent western movies was 60 years old.

Tom Mix MemorialOn this day in 1940, Tom Mix died in car wreck south of Florence, Arizona.  The icon of silent western movies was 60 years old.

He was traveling from Tucson at about 80 miles an hour when he came upon barriers protecting a bridge washed out by flooding. Mix’s car swerved and rolled into a gully. An aluminum suitcase in Mix’s car flew into his head, shattering his skull and breaking his neck. He died almost instantly.

If you drive from Tucson to Phoenix on State Route 79 (and it’s just as fast and much more scenic than taking Interstate 10), on the left before you reach Florence, you will see a memorial to Mix (pictured above).  It’s probably the only place in the country where you can pay your respects to a silver screen legend at the site of his death.

October 5, 1952: Harold Faltermeyer Born

On this day in 1952, Harold Faltermeyer was born in Munich, Germany. This musician’s synthesizer-heavy scores are more indicative of 80s movies than those of any other composer.

Harold FaltermeyerOn this day in 1952, Harold Faltermeyer was born in Munich, Germany. This musician’s synthesizer-heavy scores are more indicative of 80s movies than those of any other composer.

Faltermeyer is an accomplished musician across the board, having produced numerous albums. In the 1970s, he moved to Los Angeles in the 70s to play keyboards on the soundtrack for “Midnight Express” and got his first big break composing the score for “Beverly Hills Cop.” He had a great run in the 80s, scoring numerous films before moving back to Germany at the end of the decade.

Faltermeyer now has a variety of projects, but recently composed the score for “Cop Out,” with Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. Below is some his greatest work.

More information on Faltermeyer can be found on his website at: http://www.haroldfaltermeyer.net.

October 4, 1895: Buster Keaton Born

On this day in 1895, Joseph Frank “Buster” Keaton was born in Piqua, Kansas. He performed with his family as a child in Vaudeville and then moved to Los Angeles to became the most electrifying star of the silent movie era.

Buster Keaton - 1939On this day in 1895, Joseph Frank “Buster” Keaton was born in Piqua, Kansas. He performed with his family as a child in Vaudeville and then moved to Los Angeles to became the most electrifying star of the silent movie era.

Charlie Chaplin was funny and Douglas Fairbanks was dashing, but Keaton had moviegoers on the edge of their seats. The great physical actor had excellent and wonderful timing, but also did almost all of his own stunts. A good comparison would be that a prime Jackie Chan was martial arts movies’ answer to Keaton.

Most of the pictures he made were structured around his amazing and often funny stunt work. For example, his greatest movie, “The General,” is 80 minutes of him chasing a runaway train and it’s magnificent.

Below are two videos of Keaton’s work. The first is compilation of his best stunts. The other discusses two instances where he risked death in performing them.

Keaton died of lung cancer in 1966.

 

September 29, 2006: The Host Released in U.S.

On this day in 2006, “The Host” was released in the U.S. This movie, which is not to be confused with the adaptation of the Stephanie Meyer novel, is the highest-grossing South Korean film of all-time and one of the greatest giant monster pictures ever made.

The Host PosterOn this day in 2006, “The Host” was released in the U.S. This movie, which is not to be confused with the adaptation of the Stephanie Meyer novel, is the highest-grossing South Korean film of all-time and one of the greatest giant monster pictures ever made.

The plot is simple. A giant tadpole emerges from Seoul’s Han River and kidnaps a young girl, forcing her dysfunctional family to rescue her. What makes this particular movie special is that it manages to avoid every cliché without being contrarian or ironic. Like “Breaking Bad” (which ends tonight), every time you think you know where it’s headed, it completely surprises you.

For me, the original “King Kong” is the best giant monster movie ever, but the second best is “The Host.”

September 25, 1959: David Brown and Helen Gurley Marry

On this day in 1959, David Brown and Helen Gurley were married. The two became one of the entertainment industry’s most powerful and influential couples.

David Brown and Helen Gurley BrownOn this day in 1959, David Brown and Helen Gurley were married. The two became one of the entertainment industry’s most powerful and influential couples.

Brown met Gurley when he was a managing editor at Cosmopolitan and she was one of the highest-paid copywriters in the publishing industry. By the time they married, Brown was an executive at 20th Century Fox Studios. The two only made each other’s work stronger. Brown went on to produce numerous films, including “Jaws,” “The Sting” and “Cocoon.” Gurley wrote the classic book “Sex and the Single Girl” and became editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan in 1965, a job she held until 1997.

Brown died in 2010 at the age of 93. Helen Gurley Brown away passed two years later at the age of 90.

September 22, 1995: Showgirls Released

On this day in 1995, “Showgirls” was released in American movie theaters. The movie showed that a big-budgeted NC-17-rated movie, especially a bad one, could not appeal to a broad adult audience.

Showgirls PosterOn this day in 1995, “Showgirls” was released in American movie theaters. The movie showed that a big-budgeted NC-17-rated movie, especially a bad one, could not appeal to a broad adult audience.

The 90s saw an unprecedented popularity in erotic thrillers. Some like “The Last Seduction” and “The Specialist” were great; others, like “Jade” and “Sliver,” not so much. But the movie that started it as well was “Basic Instinct,” which had to trim 45 seconds to avoid an NC-17 rating.

The success had movie execs wondering how a movie that decided on the front end to forgo the R-rating for graphic sex would fare. United Artists decided to see and brought in in “Basic Instinct’s” respective director and writer Paul Verhoeven and Joe Esterzhas to make it happen. “Showgirls” would be their guinea pig.

The movie about a drifter (Elizabeth Berkley) who comes to Las Vegas to work her way up the showgirls’ ladder just didn’t work. When these flicks work well, they walked the fine line between steaminess and trashiness. “Showgirls” was just trashy. Plus, the sex scenes that had earned the NC-17 rating (although the movie includes a violent rape scene as well) were either laughable or creepy.

The $45 million picture only recouped around $20 million and no other movie has since taken such gamble. Part of the reason is for the colossal failure of “Showgirls” and part of it was the emergence of dramas from HBO, Cinemax and Showtime. All three can push boundaries like an NC-17 without the financial risk.