Category: FILM BUFF

Poll Results: Which is the Best Robot in Scifi?

If you voted on the Best Robot in Scifi or are just passing by, below you will find the winner. Make sure to leave you comments; whether you agree or disagree.

Rachael Tyrell from Blade RunnerRachaell Tyrell from Blade Runner
Rachael Tyrell from Blade Runner

Results of Best Robot in Scifi poll

1. Rachael – Blade Runner (Movie Blade Runner) played by Sean Young

2. R2D2 – (Movie Star Wars), T000 – (Movie Terminator 2 – Judgement Day) played by Robert Patrick, Ash – (Movie Alien) played by Ian Holm and Roy Batty (Movie Blade Runner) Played by Rutger Hauer, all tie for second.

Interesting facts about Rachael’s part:

Grace Slick was suggested as an actress for the part as Rachael. Dick suggested that the novel’s subplot about Deckard being brought to a phony police station run by androids could be eliminated, and proposed a new scene which would show Deckard making love to Rachael inter-cut with Isidore trying to do the same with Pris and comically failing. He further suggested that Deckard’s estrangement from Rachael following their lovemaking could be shown to aid him in his mission to kill Pris (who, in the novel, looks identical to Rachael).

Rachael’s telephone number is 555-7583 (which seems to me  an awfully short number for the futuristic Los Angeles!)

At some point of the movie, each replicant has a red brightness in their eyes (Rachael in Deckard’s home, Pris in Sebastian’s). Deckard also has the shining in his eyes while talking to Rachael in his house. In July 2000, director Ridley Scott said that Deckard is, in fact, a replicant. Harrison Ford takes issue with this, however. “We had agreed that he definitely was not a replicant,” Ford said. Rutger Hauer’s autobiography expressed some disappointment with the same, because it reduced the final clash between Deckard and Batty from a symbolic “man vs. machine” battle to two replicants fighting.

What is your view? Is Deckard an android?

Interesting facts about R3D2’s part

In the first star Wars movie of 1977, Dan O’Bannon and John C Walsh animated the Death Star schematics seen on the computer screen as R2D2 searches the Death Star’s computer memory. They were influenced by similar sequences they produced for the film Dark Star (1974).

Industrial Automaton built R2D2 in the movie. Industrial Automaton also created the R4-P17 and R5-D4 droids.

Interesting facts about T1000’s part

Robert Patrick mimicked the head movements of the American bald eagle for his role as T-1000.

Interesting facts about Ash’s part

According to Ian Holm, Ash’s head contained spaghetti, cheap caviar and onion rings.

According to Holm, only he knew what would happen in the scene where the alien bursts out of his stomach. The other actors had not rehearsed this with him. The result was a very authentic scream from Lambert (played by Veronica Cartwright)

Interesting facts about Roy Batty’s part

Rutger Hauer came up with many inventive ideas for his characterization, like the moment where he grabs and fondles a dove. He also improvised the now-iconic line “All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in the rain”.

So what did you think about the results? Do you agree with them?

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A bit of fun: My predictions for the future

This week: My Predictions the Future, Review of 1966 film Grand Prix and Progress on Short Stirling Replica project.

My Predictions the Future

JETs Fusion Reactor 007
JETs Fusion Reactor 007

And now for a bit of fun! Here are my predictions of what will happen (and what what won’t) during my lifetime. I am 51 now so let’s assume I will live another 30 years:

  1. A real Short Stirling wreck will be recovered and restored to museum standard (I don’t think a real one will fly again)
  2. Fusion power will work but will not significantly affect energy prices yet
  3. Alexander the Great’s tomb will be found
  4. Whoever ordered John F Kennedy’s assassination will not be revealed and proven.
  5. NASA will not have sent a manned-mission to Mars yet

Now, what are yours?

First 5 commenters get a copy of any new eBook I publish in the next 12 months FREE! These are likely to be: a WWII/Aliens thriller, Iron III, Worlds Like Dust (book 1) and a literary fiction work.

 

Review of 1966 film Grand Prix

Saul Bass-1966 Grand Prix Title Sequence
Saul Bass-1966 Grand Prix Title Sequence

To mark death of James Garner, the 1966 John Frankenheimer film Grand Prix was shown on TV last week. If you love Formula One I am sure you will agree with me; what a film!

I first saw Garner in The Great Escape and The Rockford Files. I always found him likable although not an incredibly deep acting talent. Time has proved his ability to choose great projects to be a talent in itself. The earliest films I have seen him in are Sayonara (1957) with Marlon Brando and The Children’s Hour (1961) with Audrey Hepburn. He always seems to pick the right project and did a stirling job (if you will allow the pun) in The Great Escape. He is almost always the likable rogue with a warm smile. Only in Grand Prix does he play the anti-hero. His thoughtful acting will be missed.

Back to Grand Prix. It opens with a Saul Bass (one of the two best title sequence writers ever) intro that rivals anything else. We hear the roar of the Grand Prix engines, watch the exhausts vibrate and mechanics tightening bolts to the stirring march that accompanies the film.

Then there is a long in-car sequence, interspersed with track-side camera footage of a race at Monaco, in which Garner as the selfish and ambitious American driver, Pete Aron seems to force a BRM driver off the track and they both end up in the sea, losing Aron his drive for the rest of the year.

In fact, he defends his actions and we see that other drivers like and trust him enough to give him the benefit of the doubt, so we do too. Yves Montand is the romantic lead in the film and fights for the love of Eva Maria Saint, winning her but at a huge cost.

There are bad crashes, as there were then, deaths and fights back to drive again but in the end it comes down to the last race of the year and four drivers who can win. It’s nail-biting stuff.

What I love about the film, apart from the beautiful photography and choreography of the driving shots, is that the film doesn’t pull any punches and dips right into the politics of Formula One which we still see today. I must mention here that Grand Prix races existed before there was a Formula One World Championship. In those days, not all races contributed to the World Championship. But the Formula (Formula One being the fuel quality) is the same.

As for the politics, the Ferrari demagogue uses the driver’s wives and girlfriends as levers to put pressure on the drivers and even delivers cars too late for them to be properly prepared for the race. I sometimes wonder if second driver’s cars these days are tampered with in the same way.

Frankenheimer has put together some cinematic poetry here; there is a beautiful sequence with no location sound but only a beautiful, classical arrangement of the theme (with harpsichord if my hears serve me well). The cars are mirrored, multiplied and dance across the screen like ballerinas. It is half way between Swan Lake and the lovely sequence of William Walton in Battle of Britain.

One should note of course, that not all was as it seemed in this film. The drivers all had to drive their own cars and had intensive lessons before shooting began. Formula One cars were felt to be too fast and dangerous so Formula Three cars were dressed up to look like Formula One cars for the in-car sequences. Some of the drivers were too scared to use real Formula Three cars so the director had them towed around the circuits behind a Ford Gt 40. Garner did all his own driving (except perhaps the most difficult scenes) and was so taken with racing that he commenced his own racing career shortly after and did quite well.

Possibly the best sequence is shot at full speed in the last race of the season at Monza. The director chose to use the old banked curves, even though they had not been used for the real Formula One for a few years. It’s dramatic and documents what racing used to be like. It all adds to the feeling of a documentary and one in which Frankenheimer was trying to capture the true spirit of the old racing before it began to change. I am glad it is a lot safer now but you have to admire the courage of the drivers racing those tiny cars without roll bars, proper helmets or proper fire-proof suits.

Another thing I really like about the film is the lack of special effects. There is a lovely sequence when James Garner is talking to Pat (Jessica Walter), one of the other driver’s wives, in his new Ford Mustang. It must be one of the few such scenes where you can tell that the driver really is driving the car, and flat out at that, while performing a long dialogue in the car. Nice one Jim!

So, I may have rose-tinted glasses about the 1960s but, if you love car racing, give this old classic a go. Here is the title sequence:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RILdsjeL_4

Short Stirling Restoration

Short stirling
Short stirling

For those who have been following my updates on the project to build a replica Short Stirling, the first British 4-engined bomber built during World War II and the only major British type to have no survivor, here is a brief update:

Recently, I came across a video on youtube purporting to show a newly discovered Short Stirling wreck near the French coast. I told John who heads the replica construction project and contacted the powers that be to get the ball rolling. Unfortunately, the news isn’t good. Here is John’s reply to recent message from me, asking how things were going:

“Not much I’m afraid, the group were helpful but French law precludes recovery of any parts from the site unfortunately”

You can read and see more about the project progress here.

Cliff Robertson

Cliff Robertson has died. I don’t know how at the moment. His website is down but I am going to send our little group’s condolences to him via his Press Agent – when I can find his address. It will probably be swamped in the welter of messages from other people but it’s the best I can do.

I only had the briefest of correspondences with him but I was struck by how open, warm and friendly he was. He asked me to go to his house to conduct an interview ‘Mano a Mano’ but it wasn’t the right time for me. I did feel also that he was possibly not well by some of the things he said. It’s sad I won’t now have the chance to talk to him but at least we have some answers to questions about 633 Squadron.

Cliff, if you are watching or listening, you will be missed.

Cliff Robertson R.I.P.

Steve Thompson has given me this address if anybody wants to leave a message about Cliff.
http://cinemanewswire.blogspot.com/2011/09/charles-thompson-phil-lansdale-cliff.html

If you haven’t already read it, you can find Cliff Robertson’s answers to a questionnaire I I sent him on the film 633 Squadron a year before he died here.

Questionnaire for Cliff Robertson – Cliff’s Response

This post has been copied from the original post on my old blog at http://writers-blog1.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/questionnaire-for-cliff-robertson.html. It would be a shame to loose it. Cliff was nice enough to reply by letter to a questionnaire I sent him about 633 Squadron. Below is my original letter. (Please note, Cliff did not answer all questions and here I have left the response blank.)

Note: Cliff died in 2011, but I have left the post in its original form.

Dear Mr Robertson,

633 Squadron is the film in which I first saw you and made me a fan of yours. Ever since then I have sought out any film with you in it and recently, at last, I managed to see Charly (which I have never seen scheduled in England on TV).

633 Squadron has always been a very popular movie in England: it was regularly shown on TV during my childhood and is my favourite film. Today I think the film has entered the national psyche and is even the subject of contemporary adverts. The theme music is one of the best-loved pieces of music here and for myself, I never tire of watching your performance as the laconic Roy Grant. I think, more than any other film (certainly on flying or war), it has come to represent the best, something fundamental, about the British character. Many fans would love to know more about the film and about your part: you only have to look at the posts on youtube alongside excerpts (illegal I am sure) of the movie to see how popular it is, and yet you have been almost silent on it. Please Cliff, would you be so kind as to try and find time to answer the following questions for your fans in England (I cannot speak for Wales, Ireland and Scotland but I am sure they feel the same).
A movie and aviation buff.

Cliff’s Response:

It was a joy to film the picture, although we were limited as to budget and time. I think under the circumstances that everyone connected. The picture did well with these limitations.

1. Did you get to fly in any of the Mosquitos during the filming (which incidentally was at Bovingdon, only 2 miles from my house at the time) and if so, did you manage to take the controls?
Cliff: My one great regret was not getting to fly the Mosquitos. The producers knew I was a pilot and were careful to keep me away from the controls for insurance reasons. All sadly understood.

2. What was it like working with the director, Walter Grauman? I understand he is a big fan of aeroplanes too.
Cliff: I enjoyed working with Walter Grauman. We shared a mutual appreciation and love for aviation – I being an active pilot and “Wally” Grauman having been a bombardier in World War II (in B-25s – LF). My piloting has all been post World War II, although I have had a long love affair with aviation all my life.

3. I think only a real pilot could pull off the scenes of dialogue by your character in the cockpit because of the understated movement which seems so realistic. Do you think your passion for flying and dedication to the part helped to lift the film from a B-movie to a classic?

4. I know you are a modest guy and might not find the last question so easy to answer so what are your memories of the other actors in the movie?
Cliff: As for the cast I think they were all first rate. A very congenial group of actors. All in all it was a good film to work on. Good cast, fine crew and happy memories.

5. Did you ever meet Steve McQueen, another actor and pilot?

6. Incidentally he filmed The War Lover at Bovingdon too. Would you have like to fly a B-17 or are you more interested in lighter aircraft?

7. I have seen 633 squadron at least ten times as I cannot resist watching both you and the Mosquitos. I have heard that it was filmed very briskly, that the English actors were paid by the day, and the higher-paid ones, for instance, were the ones who crashed during the raid (although I have never been able to make the number of shot-down planes add up during the attack on the fjord). Do you remember it being filmed quickly (if you remember the filming at all)?
Cliff: As to (the cast’s) payment which you enquired of, I know not any details.

8. Somehow the tension is as tight as any film I can think of, and watching it is like being on a rack: the tension just builds and builds. Is this down to taught direction, the subject, constraints of filming on a tight budget or something else?
Cliff: I agree with you the editing was excellent, tight and dramatic.

9. Having listened to your long (2 1/2 hours?) Archive interview on youtube, there were many questions left, hence this questionnaire. Another interviewee was Bill Shatner who, like you appeared in the The Twilight Zone, Outlaws and The United States Steel Hour. Have you ever worked with him and if not, are there any actors or parts you would love to have played with/played?

10. It seems a question of debate as to whether Roy Grant survives at the end of 633 Squadron – we would like to have your personal opinion on this?
Cliff: I did not particularly like the ending and so stated because there was an ambiguity as to whether Roy Grant lived or died. However that’s just my opinion. Walter Marrish, the producer is a fine gentleman and a delight to work with. He happily is still with us and lives in Beverly Hills.

See note at end on this matter – LF

11. One of my favourite scenes is the one where George Chakiris’ character, Erik is about to leave for Norway on the B-25 and is saying goodbye to both his sister (Maria Perschy) and Roy. He asks if Roy likes fishing and will he come with them when the war is over and Roy answers, “Yeah, I like to fish.” He sounds slightly lost, like a child which reveals Roy’s vulnerability (not that different to something in Charly). Was this something you consciously aimed for?
Cliff: As for Roy Grant, the role I played, I wanted to make him above all believable, if somewhat understood. But hopefully realistic.

12. Do you remember any of the local landmarks at Bovingdon? For instance did you visit The Swan pub at Ley Hill, which Clark Gable James Stewart and Glen Miller used to cycle out to while based at Bovingdon?

Thanks very much to Cliff for this. His letter seems to suggest that a telephone interview might allow him to give fuller answers so that is a possibility for the future.

Note on question 10. It’s worth noting that in the original book, Roy Grant is badly wounded but taken prisoner and survives the War.

Cliff’s website can be found here: http://www.cliffrobertson.info where he regularly posts about flying.

Thanks also to Stephen C Thompson, of Thompson Communications who put me in touch with Cliff and can be contacted here: http://www.thomcomm.net/contact.html

SA_CoverKindlepreviewsmallIf you are interested in aircraft, you might like one of my Wartime aviation novels.

Screaming Angels explores the causes of the MiG-15s superiority at the beginning of the Korean War and includes a chapter about the De Havilland Mosquito.

Attack Hitler’s Bunker! is about a raid using composite Hawker Hurricane and Short Stirling aircraft in a daring raid on Hitler’s Bunker in Berlin.

December Radio is about secret German technology during WW2 and features detail on Eugen Sanger’s Orbital Bomber, sometimes called the Amerika Bomber, which could skip along the Earth’s atmosphere to reach New York and reach Japan, making it the forerunner of the American Space Shuttle.

Explore these books under the main menu item Wartime (Aviation) Series.