Metropolis

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It was on this day 92 years ago  the classic Science Fiction movie was released. I recently watched it again and was amazed by how fresh the movie still looked,

But more then just a Sci-Fi flick it is also a snapshot of the political situation of the time and the years that followed, not so much in the film as such but in the lives of those who were involved in making the movie.

1927 Germany was at the advent of massive  social and political changes. The popularity of the Nazi part was gaining momentum, although they were still a small party they were making significant gains.

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UFA GmbH, the distributing studio of Metropolis had been in financial difficulties and was bought in 1927 by politician and media tycoon Alfred Hugenberg. He was also the chairman of the German National People’s Party, a conservative nationalist party.As leader of the German National People’s Party he played a pivotal role  in helping Adolf Hitler become Chancellor of Germany and served in his first cabinet in 1933,

The director of the movie Fritz Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou, who wrote the novel and the screenplay for Metropolis, had initially also flirted with the Nazi party.

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The couple produced a number of movies together. Aside from Metropolis the also made the classic thriller “M” in 1931. which starred a young Austro-Hungarian Jewish actor László Löwenstein better known as Peter Lorre.

When Hitler came to power Peter Lorre left Germany because of the Antisemitic laws which were introduced.

The actress Brigitte Helm who played Maria and also the Tin Machine in Metropolis ,felt the wrath of the Nazi party  for “race defilement” in marrying her second husband Dr. Hugo Kunheim, an industrialist of Jewish background. The couple left for Switzerland in 1935 and never returned to Germany.

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Joseph Goebbels had been impressed by Fritz Lang’s work and although he banned Lang’s 1933 film”The Testament of Dr. Mabuse” because it “showed that an extremely dedicated group of people are perfectly capable of overthrowing any state with violence” He still offered a position as the head of German film studio UFA.

However Lang did not accept the offer and left Berlin on 31 July 1933, He had also been worried about the increasing power of the Nazi party and the Antisemitic laws ,known as the Nuremberg Laws, imposed in Germany, even though Fritz Lang’s mother  had converted from Judaism to Catholic, and Fritz Lang had been raised as a Catholic, according to the Nüremberg Laws his mother and therefor Fritz too were stlll considered Jewish.

And although he had initially sympathized with the Nazi party he had soon changed his mind, But his wife Thea von Harbou remained a Nazi supporter. The couple divorced on April 26, 1933.

Fritz Lang emigrated to the USA and worked on many successful Hollywood movies like “the Return of Frank James” starring Henry Fonda.

Thea von Harbou stayed involved in the German film industry with  some movies with an indisputable National Socialist worldview.

Many people nowadays will probably only know Metropolis from the Queen video “Radio Ga Ga” and are probably blissfully unaware of the historical significance of the movie.

 

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The special effects in Laurel & Hardy movies.

Brats L & H

Ever since I was a kid I loved watching Laurel & Hardy movies and I believe I have them all in my collection.

The humour in their films has remained fresh till today and they never dated. But it is only since recently I started to appreciate that some of their movies had very advanced special effects for their time, and those effect have also stood the test of time for more then 80 years.

Below are just a few examples.

Brats

In the movie Brat Stan and Ollie play themselves but also their sons and in several scenes the four are seen together.

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Babes in Toyland aka March of the Wooden Soldiers

That whole movie is filled with special effects. Recently it has become a bit controversial because some people had called some scenes and especially the march of the wooden soldiers anti-Semitic, I have watched this movie hundreds of times and I could not see it, if at all it is more of a warning of things to come.

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The Flying Deuces

Nowadays having it seem like an animal is talking is not anyone gets excited about, it is even used in TV ads. However in 1939 having a horse mimicking Ollie and telling Stan “That’s another fine pickle you got me in” was a technical masterpiece.

Flying Deuces

Ending with one of my favourite scenes from ‘Way out West’

 

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The Wilhelm Scream

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What do the movies. Star Wars-The Empire Strikes Back,Toy Story 3,Juno,Where Eagles Dare and Distant Drums(and a few hundred more) have in common?

It’s not the cast or screenplay or even the studio but there are 2 seconds in all these movies which are identical. Those 2 seconds are called “The Wilhelm Scream” which is a sound effect.

The likelihood is great that you’ve heard the Wilhelm Scream at some point when watching a movie or TV show. The sound effect originated in the 1951 Gary Cooper film Distant Drums, and has become a Hollywood sound effects staple for more than 60 years.

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At one point in the film ,Distant Drum , some soldiers are slowly walking through a dark swamp when one of them is fatally attacked by an alligator. At the moment when the alligator  surprises him and drags him underwater, the soldier lets out the first known instance of the iconic scream.

The scream is often used when someone is shot, falls from a great height, or is thrown from an explosion. It  has been used in 382 + movies and countless television shows.

However the name wasn’t used until 1953  In the movie ‘Charge at Feather River’, a character named Private Wilhelm gets shot in the leg with an arrow. He screams as he falls off his horse. Filmmakers used the Wilhelm Scream twice more in that movie as a stock effect to save money.

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The famous scream was made mainstream by the Star Wars franchise. One of Star Wars sound designers named Ben Burtt was busy creating the sound palette for George Lucas’ Star Wars: A New Hope. He came across the Wilhelm scream and realized that a great number of  filmmakers had used it since the 1950s, he decided to pay homage to the sound effect by incorporating it into the  sci-fi classic. The scream can be heard in the  famous scene in which Luke Skywalker shoots a Storm trooper aboard the Death Star and the unfortunate trooper falls off a ledge. In fact the scream is used in all Star Wars movies.

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Research by Burtt suggests that Sheb Wooley, best known for his novelty song “The Purple People Eater” in 1958 and as scout Pete Nolan on the television series Rawhide, is likely to have been the voice actor who originally performed the scream.

Sheb Wooley

On a different not but yet slightly related another used soundbite that has made it into many Movies/TV Shows and even Heavy Metal albums is the line “Dr. Davis, telephone please. Dr. Blair, Dr. Blair. Dr. J. Hamilton, Dr. J. Hamilton”

I heard it on the classic Queensryche album ‘Operation Mindcrime’ and it was bugging me for I knew I heard it before, and then I heard in an episode of the Cosby show and several other shows and movies.

In case you are wondering about the connection of the painting ‘the Scream’ (at the start of the blog)and ‘the Wilhelm Scream’ there is none, other then the actual word scream. I was looking for a picture of a scream and that was the best one.

Ending the blog with a compilation of ‘the Wilhelm Scream’

 

 

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They went on to do bigger things.

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Over the decades there have been so many iconic movies and TV shows which spawned many big actors and actresses.But it didn’t always happen over night, sometimes these stars started off in big shows or movies with minor obscure rolls, or even in music videos.

Below are just a few examples.

Before Dirty Dancing.

Dirty

The biggest star to come out of the movie Dirty Dancing is without a doubt Patrick Swayze,although I didn’t like the movie I have to admit it became one id the most iconic movies of the 80s.

However before Patrick Swayze made it big, he appeared in an episode of MASH. Where he played a character who catches Leukemia at a young age.

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Before Magnum P.I.

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When you think Magnum P.I. you just couldn’t imagine else playing that role then Tom Selleck. Tom went on to do other iconic movies such as ‘Three men and a baby’ and stars currently in the hugely popular ‘Blue Bloods’

But before all this he had an obscure role in the medical thriller ‘Coma’ as an injured football player.

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Before Million Dollar Baby

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Million Dollar Baby is still one of the finest movies ever made. It gave Hilary Swank the chance to shine and show how good an actress she is.Deservedly she won the Oscar for her role. But before she was boxing, she was being harassed by vampires in the movie “Buffy the Vampire slayer”

Buffy

Before Blade

Blade

Staying with vampire slayers, although Wesley Snipes has played in many big budget action movies, his most iconic role is that of ‘Blade’ half vampire,half human vampire slayer.

But it was Michael Jackson who chose Wesley for hos other talents, his dancing skills in the music video for ‘Bad’Bad

Before Speed

Speed

Sandra Bullock has done so many great movies in a variety of genres from comedy to science fiction but her breakthrough movie is without a doubt “Speed”

However before she drove buses at a speed of over 50 M/PH she was a bit of a Bionic woman in “Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (1989 TV Movie)”

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Before Man on the Moon

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I good picked a number of movies when it comes to Jim Carrey, -the Grinch,Mask,Dumb and Dumber- the list goes on. But I picked ‘Man on the Moon’ because I think that was his best performance to date, and he should have got the Oscar for that.

He did have a part though in another iconic movie “The Dead pool” the last of the Dirty Harry movies, where he played a rock star, basically based on Axl Rose.

Dirty Harru

They all went on to do greater things.

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Nazis and cinema

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Ever since its inception , the media of  film has been a perfect tool to inform the masses be it in an entertaining way or in a more sinister manner.

It was and still is the perfect way to distribute propaganda material en mass, although in more recent  years social media has taken over that reign.

Don’t get me wrong I love movies I sill see that they do a lot more good then harm, it is a great way just to escape the daily strife for an hour or two. However it doesn’t take away the fact that they have been used to promote evil causes.

No matter what you think of the Nazis, they were masters of propaganda and were able to use it in the most efficient way possible. They understood the power of cinema/ At relatively ‘low’ costs they were able to distribute their warped ideology on a large scale by using propaganda movies.

Marika Rökk

They varied from short documentaries to massive cinematic productions that rivaled Hollywood in many ways.

Hitler was a big movie fan,prior to the war he spent night after night watching feature films and newsreels. He sometimes watched two, even three films, either at his mountain residence in the Bavarian Alps, the Berghof, or in Berlin at the Reich Chancellery.

Not only German films, but also American,French, and British films, in the original language.Although  Hitler only spoke German he would rely on synopses given by his aides about the movies he was about to watch.

He was a great Walt Disney fan but also loved Laurel and Hardy movies. Ironically the movie “Swiss Miss” which featured Grete Natzler(aka Della Lind) an Austrian Jewish actress  who had fled Germany in 1933, was one of his favourite movies.

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Short movies like “Erbkrank” -“”The Hereditary Defective” were made  yo gain public support for the T-4 Euthanasia program. the euthanasia of mentally disbled . This film, as  others, were made with actual footage of patients in German psychiatric hospitals.

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Goebbels, the self appointed “Patron of the German film”, thought, cirrectly that a national cinema which was entertaining and put glamour on the government would be a more effective propaganda instrument than a national cinema where the NSDAP and their policy would have been ubiquitous. Goebbels wanted  to end the ‘moral’ corruption that he thought could be found in the former movie industry. The main goal of the Nazi film policy was to promote escapism, which was designed to distract the population and to keep everybody in good spirits.

Aside from the glamorous movies and the short documentaries promoting T4, a great number of big budget open propaganda movies were made. Documentaries like Der Sieg des Glaubens( The Victory of Faith) and Triumph des Willens(Triumph of the Will),  which were records of the Nuremberg rallies, and newsreels.

Directors like Herbert Gerdes and Leni Riefenstahl were pivotal in the production of these movies.Leni Riefenstahl’s career was not damaged by her involvement the Nazi party and her closeness to Adolf Hitler, after the war she still made several award winning documentaries.

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Movie sequels that never should have been made.

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I am not going to say that every movie sequel is bad, because there are some good ones out there. However in general most sequels are really money making vehicles especially when they are following a very successful movie.

I could easily fill this page with hundreds of bad sequels but I am limiting it to 3. Three sequels of iconic movies, you may not even know they were made.

Grease 2

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I believe only 2 people actually saw this movie, I am one of them I would like to know who the other person was. It was just an awful movie, no redeeming features whatsoever.

What made it so shocking for me is that I am a massive Grease fan I had high hopes for this sequel. It was made in 1982.

The movie was set again at Rydell High but the in the year 1961.

The plot

Michael Carrington is the new kid in school.An English student considered a nerdy brainiac who  has to prove himself to the leader of a girls’ gang whose members can only date greasers, the Pink ladies,lead by  Stephanie, played by Michelle Pfeiffer.

It got 4.2 out of 10 on IMDB

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Staying Alive

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Another classic 70s movies destroyed by its sequel. The original of course being “Saturday Night Fever”

This time at least they stuck with the same character and actor,John Travolta, but that didn’t make the movie any better. In fact the opposite was true.

The Plot

In this sequel to Saturday Night Fever, former disco king Tony Manero has left Brooklyn and lives in Manhattan. He stays in a cheap hotel and works as a dance instructor and as a waiter at a dance club, trying to succeed as a professional dancer on Broadway.

It got 4.5 out of 10 on IMDB

Well it was directed by Sylvester Stallone

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Exorcist II: The Heretic

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The original “The Exorcist” I still consider the scariest movie ever made.

I remember watching it for the 1st time. I created the perfect atmosphere, I had darkened my room so I would focus only on the screen. While I was watching the movie I didn’t affect me at all, however when I tried to go to sleep afterwards, I couldn’t. In fact I stayed awake for 3 nights.

Needless to say I had high hopes for the sequel which was made in 1977, 4 years after the original. I only saw both movies many years afterwards.

The sequel had the opposite affect on me, it put me to sleep within 10 minutes, because it was just so boring.

The Plot

A teenage girl once possessed by a demon finds that it still lurks within her. Meanwhile, a priest investigates the death of the girl’s exorcist.

It got 3.7 out of 10 on IMDB

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The humour of Laurel and Hardy

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Today is the 53 rd anniversary of the passing away of Stan Laurel, time to look back at some of the wonderful and funny moments he and his ‘Partner in Crime’ delivered for our entertainment.

The power of the humour of Laurel and Hardy is that it did not date, it is still as fresh today as it was then.

Here are just some of their classic lines, very dry but very funny.

From ‘Another Fine Mess’

Ollie “Call me a Cab” Stan “Huh” Ollie “Call me a Cab” Stan “You’re a Cab”

L&H portrait 1929 Derby Pose

From Sons of the Desert

Ollie: You’d better take my temperature….. get that thermometer.
Stan: The what?
Ollie: Thermometer! You’ll find it on the shelf.
(Stan places the thermometer into Ollie’s mouth and starts to take his pulse)
Ollie: What does it say?
Stan: Wet and windy.

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From Way out West.

Lady “What did he die off” Stan ” I think he died of a Tuesday”

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From Brats

Stan “You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be led.”

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Recasting Movies-What if?

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I have never made a movie but I am a movie buff. It is hard to cast movies, not every actor is suited to every movie.

I do have a theory of ‘ Stand-by’ actors which is purely and solely based on my own imagination, what I mean whit ‘stand-by’ actors is , when a studio doesn’t get the actor they want for a movie or if their budget isn’t big enough to hire a big movie star, they hire an actor that looks like the star. For example, I have seen movies which I thought were suited for Nick Nolte, but Gary Busey was cast instead,

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Another example would be Mel Gibson and Aidan Quinn.

But again this is purely my own theory there is no back up for this.

Recently I came across some movie posters of classic and more modern movies with a completely new cast on them. I don’t know who made the posters but they are fantastic and it make you wonder, if you could back in time and shoot a movie who would you pick to play in it. What if you could remake a movie with a different cast, would it work?

Hell Boy with Sly Stallone

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Scanners with Frank Sinatra

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A new(old) ensemble cast for Watchmen

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Blade Runner with Bogart and Brando

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Not David Bowie but Jimi Hendrix in Labyrinth

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Dean Martin, Jack Lemon and Jerry Lewis in The Hangover.

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Star Wars VIII(and a half)- The forgotten one.

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With the force being bestowed upon us very soon again with the last Jedi it is a good time to look back at some of the forgotten or  lesser known Star Wars facts.

Darth Vader’s chest piece has Ancient Hebrew etched onto it. It reads: “His deeds will not be forgiven, until he merits”

Darth-Vader-chestplate

The blizzard in the Hoth scenes was real. They were shot at Hardangerjøkulen glacier near Finse, Norway, and no special effects were used.

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Qui-Gon Jinn’s communicator is actually a modified Gillette Ladies Sensor Excell razor.
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The majority of Stormtroopers are left-handed due to the construction of their prop guns. They are modeled on the Sterling L2A3 9mm SMG (sub-machine gun), a military weapon from the 1950s with the magazine located on the left hand side.Stormtrooper_Corps.png

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E.T.’s species (Asogians) appears in The Phantom Menace at a political speech in the galactic senate.
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Bounty Hunter Bossk from The Empire Strikes Back wears a costume from a 1966 Doctor Who episode.
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Many of the buildings constructed to be used in shots of Tatooine are still standing in Tunisia. In fact, some of them are still used by locals.

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Finally

Star Wars-Black Angel

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For all of you die hard Star Wars fans who think that you have seen all movies in the Star Wars universe, more then likely you have not.

A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, in fact this galaxy.

The 1980 short film was created to accompany The Empire Strikes Back in theaters. It was the directorial debut of Star Wars‘ pioneering set decorator Roger Christian and a special request by the big man himself, George Lucas. After it screened in cinemas, it suddenly vanished.

The film was shot at Eilean Donan in Scotland in autumn 1979. The budget of £25,000 was given to Roger Christian by an Eady Scheme fund from the UK government

Sir Maddox, a medieval knight, returns from the Crusades to find his home rife with sickness and his family gone. As he journeys through this mystical realm he encounters a mysterious and beautiful maiden, who appears to him as he is drowning. Sir Maddox learns that the maiden is being held prisoner by a black knight and in order to free her he must confront her captor, the Black Angel.

Star Wars is supposedly set somewhere in arthurian times and the crusades. Dark Angel ties in with that.

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United Artists no more-How “Heaven’s gate” broke the studio

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This is more of a personal blog then factual although the facts are real, but when I say personal it is more a matter of taste.

In 1978 Michael Cimino directed the classic movie “the Deer Hunter” The_Deer_Hunter_posterEven though I was only 10 at the time I did recognize it to be a genuine masterpiece and it has stayed in my top 10 all time favourite movies ever since. It won the oscar for best picture and director and best supporting actor for Christopher Walken and rightfully so.

And although I would love to continue about how brilliant the performances were and the amazing cinematography and the classic sound track, I won’t.

Because this blog is not about the Deer Hunter but the movie that Michael Cimino directed 2 years later and how it stole 149 minutes of my life which I  will never get back and how it basically broke United Artists studios.

The film was “Heaven’s Gate “MV5BMjAxNDE5MzQ5M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTk3MTE3NA@@._V1_a 1980 American epic Western film written and directed by Michael Cimino. Loosely based on the Johnson County War, it portrays a fictional dispute between land barons and European immigrants in Wyoming in the 1890s. The film features an ensemble cast, including Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Isabelle Huppert, Jeff Bridges, John Hurt, Sam Waterston, Brad Dourif,  Terry O’Quinn, Mickey Rourke and Willem Dafoe . It is generally considered one of the biggest box office bombs of all time, and was initially described as one of the worst films ever made.There were major setbacks in the film’s production due to cost and time overruns, negative press (including allegations of animal abuse on-set), and rumors about Cimino’s allegedly overbearing directorial style; the film resultantly opened to poor reviews, earning only $3.5 million domestically (from an estimated $44 million budget.

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The film’s subject was the Johnson County War of 1889-1893, a conflict between Wyoming’s biggest cattle ranchers and the immigrant homesteaders who challenged their monopoly. In Cimino’s version of events, the cigar-puffing patricians of the Stockgrowers’ Association compile “a death list” of 125 Central and Eastern Europeans they have classed as cattle rustlers, and they recruit a small army of mercenaries to wipe them out.

But Cimino wasn’t just planning a series of shoot-outs. Heaven’s Gate was to be a work of art: a monumental American saga encompassing roller-skating and baseball, a graduation waltz at Harvard, and a steamboat puffing through Newport. At its heart would be a tragic love triangle between Kristofferson’s noble marshal, the Association’s ruthless sharp-shooter (Christopher Walken), and the bordello madam they both adore. MV5BNTY5Yzc0ODEtZjUwMS00NGI4LWFkNjctNzUxOGNiMmViZGNjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjUyNDk2ODc@._V1_

And in here lies its downfall, the movie was just to complicated. In a way I am lucky because the first cut of the movie was 229 minutes.

The movie had a major negative impact on the US film industry.

The film’s $44 million cost  and poor performance at the box office ($3.5 million gross in the United States) generated more negative publicity than actual financial damage, causing Transamerica Corporation, United Artists’ corporate owner, to become anxious over its own public image and to abandon film production altogether.

Transamerica inserted Andy Albeck as UA’s president. United had its most successful year with four hits in 1979: Rocky IIManhattanMoonraker, and The Black Stallion.

The new leadership agreed to back Heaven’s Gate, the pet project of director Michael Cimino overran its budget and cost $44 million. This led to the resignation of Albeck who was replaced by Norbert Auerbach. United Artists recorded a major loss for the year due almost entirely to this fiasco

Transamerica then sold United Artists to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which effectively ended the studio’s existence. MGM would later revive UA as a subsidiary division. While the money loss due to Heaven’s Gate was considerable, UA was already struggling after the executive walkout in 1978 and several other major box office flops in 1980, including Cruising, Foxes and Roadie.

Six days into filming, Cimino was five days behind schedule, and had spent $900,000 on a minute-and-a-half of usable footage. Two weeks into filming, the studio calculated that, at the rate he was going, Heaven’s Gate was going to cost them $1m per minute of running time. Something had to be done. But when another UA executive, Derek Kavanagh, was dispatched to Wyoming to rewrite Cimino’s schedule, the director responded by dictating and posting a memo: “Derek Kavanagh is not to come to the location set. He is not to enter the editing room. He is not to speak to me at all.” The budget grew from a proposed $7.5m to an agreed $11.6m to a total of $44m.

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Some of the tales of Heaven’s Gate are hair-raising. In a making-of documentary, Jeff Bridges, who played a local entrepreneur, recalls that when it was time to film the climactic battle scenes, the actors would be woken at 3:30am, and driven for three hours along dirt roads to the site. Once there, it was mostly actors, rather than stunt-riders, who had to race their horses full-pelt through clouds of dust, guns blazing. Bridges was terrified by the lack of safety precautions. “Even in a real battle,” he comments, “you don’t do it over and over again.”

Most of the on-set folklore, however, isn’t about a lunatic taking dangerous risks, but about an artist labouring to make the best film possible. “From someone on the outside it would look like it was almost too much,” says Bridges, “but it never appeared that way to me. It was like, oh, this guy really cares.”

Movie are one of my biggest passions and especially westerns, but Heaven’s gate made the movie experience a living hell.

It had all started so promisingly. Cimino had been an advertising whizz-kid who moved into film with the Clint Eastwood/Jeff Bridges crime caper, Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, in 1974. His follow-up was an elegiac Vietnam drama, The Deer Hunter, a critical smash that went on to win five Oscars, including best picture, in 1979.

VARIOUS FILM STILLS

But the ‘Heaven’s Gate’ fiasco effectively ended Michael Cimino’s career, he did direct a few more movies afterwards but he was never able to rekindle the success he had with “the Deerhunter”

Cimino died July 2, 2016, at age 77 at his home in Beverly Hills, California.Eric Weissmann, a friend and former lawyer of Cimino, said that friends had been unable to reach Cimino by phone for the last few days and called the police, who found him dead in his bed. Weissmann stated that he had not been aware of Cimino having any illness.

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Some critics have since revised their opinion on the movie and are now deeming it to be a masterpiece. I don’t subscribe to that point of view.

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