Stardom really can be unpredictable. There are far too many talented, photogenic young men and women who seem destined to be stars, complete with box-office hits, critical approval, legions of fans. For a while they are dubbed The Next Big Thing – and then it never happens. Their talent remains but expectations evaporate. No one becomes a star without having box-office hits. So along comes someone like, say, Steve Guttenberg, whom no one would expect to be anything but what he was, a good-looking guy with no distinctive talent. Then he becomes, thanks to 3 diverse hits, a bankable ’80s movie star (who continues today with a productive, varied career). Recent Blu-ray reissues have reminded us of the breakthrough roles and movies of Tom Cruise and Eddie Murphy.
So I asked Joan Collins about her breakthrough as Alexis Carrington in TV’s ‘Dynasty.’ What’s intriguing now is to read what executives said after the fact: In effect, it wasn’t Alexis Carrington people were watching, it was Joan Collins! She made the show a number one hit. ‘You could have put 49 other actresses in the role and ‘Dynasty’ wouldn’t have become a hit. It was Joan Collins.’ So in a recent phone interview from her London flat, this and other subjects were covered in addition to what ran in the HERALD last week about Dame Joan.
Q: When you came to play Alexis Carrington in 1981, you already were a star, first as an early Fifties teenage ‘sex bomb’ in British pictures, then whisked away to Hollywood to star in Howard Hawks’ ‘Land of the Pharaohs’ which won you a 20th Century-Fox contract and movies like ‘Rally Round the Flag Boys’ opposite Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward and ‘The Bravados’ opposite Gregory Peck. Then you had a ‘70s comeback with ‘The Stud’ and ‘The Bitch,’ a pair of low-budget sexually daring dramas written by your novelist sister Jackie Collins that proved to be substantial hits.
Film stars Gregory Peck and Joan Collins take time out from the cameras for a much needed rest, during the shooting of their new picture, “The Bravados,” at Morelia, Mexico, April 25, 1958. (AP Photo)
JOAN COLLINS: I’ve done close to 100 films, not to mention thousands of television episodes. But I do think that playing Alexis Carrington in ‘Dynasty’ made me an international name. a big name. I’d been quite famous but I never had that extraordinary fame where I was on every magazine cover all the time and everything I did was grist for the mill of the tabloids. But at the same time I really enjoyed that part. And I’ve heard from many women who although mainstream thought she was a conniving bitch many, many women thought she was the equal of men and played up to her role as an independent and very, very powerful women. This was the time of Margaret Thatcher remember. And Princess Diana as well. Thatcher was very admired. It’s difficult for women to be strong, assertive and equal. Many people don’t like that.
British actress Joan Collins joins Bing Crosby, left, and Bob Hope, at Shepperton Studios, near London, Aug. 2, 1961, for rehearsals of the film “The Road to Hong Kong”. (AP Photo)
Q: Did you realize immediately, this was the role that will change your life?
JC: I was in Majorca with my daughter who was recovering from a very, very bad road accident. I was told it was going to be a six-week gig. She [her agent] read me a few pages on the phone. I thought, I could probably do something with this. It’s a little bit Grand Guignol, it’s a little bit caricature-ish but I can perhaps breathe some life into her. And I think that I succeeded. [a little laugh]
British actress Joan Collins act out a scene dressed as a nun during the filming of the TV series “Dynasty”, in the United States, in 1985. (AP Photo)
Q: Do you have a bucket list of things you yet want to do?
JC: Yes, my bucket list: COVID to end and theaters and cinemas and restaurants reopen! So we can go and start living our normal lives again.
Q: I must say I love the detail, not to mention the exploits, in your first memoir ‘Past Imperfect.’ Are there more books to come?
JC: Yes! I’ve written 16 books in total. Five novels, five memoirs and several beauty books. My diaries are being published next spring – you’re the first person I’ve told this!
Actress Joan Collins, best known as Alexis Carrington of television’s “Dynasty,” is taking time out to promote her autobiography, April 30, 1984. The book, “Past Imperfect,” is a steamy romp through her loves and hates. She is seen in New York’s Pierre Hotel. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
These are diaries I wrote after ‘Dynasty.’ I did another series after ‘Dynasty,’ a dreadful thing called ‘Pacific Palisades’ that Aaron [Spelling] did. I did a lot of stuff but I was also rejected a lot which is something an actress has to face. And I was able to because my father who was an agent told me all about it. But I was having a fun, an enjoyable, time and I was traveling a lot and I met a lot of fun, interesting people. So these diaries are called ‘After Dynasty’ – isn’t that a good title. It covers an 8 or 9 year period.
GREATEST EVER IN GREATEST VISUALS EVER Magnificently ambitious, among the biggest gambles in film history, one that that paid off spectacularly, ‘The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy’ (4K Ultra HD + Digital Code, 9 discs, WB, PG-13) saw a small studio risk everything by making 3 films about J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world simultaneously. $300 million bucks for a roll of the dice. If the first one flopped, the studio would fail. Yet like ‘Star Wars,’ from the first day ‘LOR’ was playing SRO. With 1 released each year from 2001-2003 ‘LOR’ paved the way for today’s long-form, expensive series like ‘Game of Thrones.’
Andy Serkis’ performance as Gollum, who first appeared in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, was aided by advances in motion capture technology in ‘The Hobbit.’
Peter Jackson is the director, Bob Shaye the studio executive who gave him the keys to create Tolkien’s world. This new 4K set arrives with a most appropriate companion box set, the Tolkien prequel: ‘The Hobbit The Motion Picture Trilogy’ (4K Ultra HD + Digital Code, WB, PG-13 and R). Both sets feature all 3 theatrical and extended versions of the movies. For instance, the Oscar-winning Best Picture ‘The Return of the King’ is 201 minutes theatrically while the extended version is 263 minutes.
TOUGH GUY, TOUGH MOVIES Robert Aldrich’s blow-torch subtlety rivaled Sam Fuller for sheer macho madness in the Fifties and 2 of his most distinctive actioners with a pair of most distinctive leads are now in Blu-ray. Aldrich’s 1954 ‘Apache!’ (Blu-ray, KL Studio Classics, Not Rated) stars Burt Lancaster as a warrior who won’t accept his chief Geronimo’s truce which means he won’t stop fighting the lying US Cavalry. Future Aldrich star Charles Bronson (‘The Dirty Dozen’ in 1967) is here, billed as Charles Buchinsky, his real name. A big fat box-office hit, producer-star Lancaster followed ‘Apache!’ by reteaming with Aldrich on ‘Vera Cruz,’ an even bigger hit.
Director Robert Aldrich, currently directing the movie “Four For Texas”, in Los Angeles, is shown behind the camera while lining up a scene in the viewer, Sept. 27, 1963. (AP Photo/Don Brinn)
Aldrich’s black-and-white ’56 ‘Attack!’ (Blu-ray, KL Studio Classics, Not Rated) stars the idiosyncratic Jack Palance in a WWII saga set at the war’s very end with the Nazis’ final stand in the Battle of the Bulge. This consideration of the insanity and cruelty of war – a cowardly commander has cost his soldiers’ lives and Palance’s lieutenant vows it won’t happen again — parallels Kubrick’s anti-war masterwork ‘Paths of Glory’ which would come out a year later.
ANGST & ART Are the ‘Echo Boomers’ (DVD + Digital, Paramount, R) a thieving group of disillusioned, pampered Baby Boomers? No, they are millennials who are disillusioned, pampered and quite ticked that economic inequality has forced – forced! mind you – to rob the rich, trash their ritzy domiciles and steal their artworks to resell for their own daily sustenance. The group is headed by Alex Pettyfer (who hasn’t been seen nearly enough recently) and his girlfriend and their story is told to Lesley Anne Warren’s writer (and seen by us in flashbacks) by a gang member, imprisoned Patrick Schwarzenegger. Not surprisingly, the real electricity comes not with the multiple heists but a scene-stealing Michael Shannon as the no-nonsense middleman who fences the goods.
PECS AHOY! In 1987 the Barbarian Brothers – Peter Paul and David Paul — reached their pseudo-Schwarzenegger peak with the mighty ‘The Barbarians’ (Blu-ray, MGM, R). The good natured bare-chested behemoths star in a ‘Conan’-style medieval fantasy, complete with a princess that needs to be rescued and an evil ruler named Kadar, played by the veteran baddie Richard Lynch. This brand new HD master looks good and has the bonus of an admiring audio commentary by Troy Haworth and Nathaniel Thompson.
ALOHA TO ‘FIVE-O’ While neither Aussie Alex O’Loughlin or Scott (son of James) Caan became major stars during the decade they co-starred on the reboot of ‘Hawaii Five-O: The Complete Series Seasons 1-4 and Seasons 5-10’ (DVD, 240 episodes, 60 discs (!), CBS, Not Rated ), the series is considered a more than worthy successor to Jack Lord’s 1968-80 original.
Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan in “Hawaii Five-O.”
Our dynamic duo banged heads, spent years fighting the Yakuza and stopped terrorists in their scheming, dirty little tracks. The big bonus with this big box set: 20-plus hours of special features, audio commentaries on select episodes, an all-new bonus disc as cast & crew look back at what they’ve accomplished. Plus music videos, deleted & extended scenes, gag reels and alternate endings.
STEVEN HAS A TIDY UNIVERSE NOW The first Cartoon Network animated series created solely by a woman, Rebecca Sugar, ‘Steven Universe: The Complete Collection’ (DVD, Cartoon Network, Not Rated) is a box set that features the entire 2013-2019 series, the subsequent ‘Steven Universe: The Movie’ (2019) and the limited series epilogue ‘Steven Universe Future.’ Sugar based Steven on her brother, who was an artist for the series. ‘Steven Universe’ the series, a five time Emmy nominee, was the first animated series to win the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Kids & Family Program in 2019. While the series focused on the ongoing battle between earth and the humanoid alien Gems, the ‘Future’ limited series won praise for its treatment not only of LGBTQ issues but mental health issues as Steven sought to recover from his psychological trauma in the now-concluded war with the Gems.
FRANK PERRY ANYONE? Because the low-budget indie drama about 2 psychological mental patients, ‘David and Lisa’ (‘62) was the ‘Easy Rider’ of its day, a little movie that made millions and won critical acclaim, director Frank Perry (1930-95) was instantly elevated as a major auteur. His best known movie, of course, is the mad, bad Joan Crawford biopic from 1981 ‘Mommie Dearest,’ which shredded his reputation. But as he began, in partnership with his screenwriter wife Eleanor Perry, Perry’s films were considered the ultimate in serious cinema. The 1964 black-and-white (like ‘David & Lisa’) ‘Ladybug, Ladybug’ (Blu-ray, KL Studio Classics, Not Rated) looks terrific in a new 2K master as it goes for suspense with a group of schoolkids hiding in a bomb shelter in what may be a nuclear drill. Or the real deal.
Movie director, Frank Perry (“David and Lisa,” “Last Summer”) poses with his newest find, Carrie Snodgress, whom he’s determined will become a star, March 2, 1970. Miss Snodgress stars with Richard Benjamin in Perry’s latest film, “Diary of a Mad Housewife.” (AP Photo)
In 1970 the Perrys had a hit with an adaptation of a bestselling Sue Kaufman novel, ‘Diary of a Mad Housewife’ (Blu-ray, KL Studio Classics, R). Its perfectly timed subject matter – amid rising feminism an examination of homemaker ennui – made ‘Housewife’ a cultural big-screen mirror. As the housewife Carrie Snodgress is mightily affecting. More memorable is Frank Langella’s career launch as her creepy, snide lover. Blackly comic and, yes, culturally influential ‘Housewife’ saw Snodgress Oscar nominated as Best Actress.
SO FAB THIS FAYE Jerry Schatzberg’s reputation as a fashion photographer-turned-director rests with just a few films and ‘Puzzle of a Downfall Child’ (Blu-ray, KL Studio Classics, R), his 1970 directorial debut starring his then-lover Faye Dunaway at the peak of her pristine beauty, is one of them. It remains a movie that divides people. Dunaway is Lou Andreas Sand – doesn’t the name suggest bisexuality, the San Andreas Fault and an unstable surface simultaneously? – an emotional wreck from drugs and breakdowns the movies so often love.
From left to right are: Leslie Allen, her husband Hollywood actor Tony Curtis, US actress Faye Dunaway talking to US photographer Jerry Schatzberg, attend a show of resort fashions, called Maremoda (sea fashion) and held in the courtyard of the Certosa Monastery on the Isle of Capri, Italy, on Sept. 3, 1968. (AP Photo)
In her (fashionable) beach cottage comes a photographer turned director (Barry Primus) who records their conversations hoping to transform her delusional life into a compelling story. Special Features: Schatzberg interview, the alternate studio-decreed opening, screenwriter-humorist Larry Karaszewki introducing the movie in the ‘Trailers From Hell’ series, plus an audio commentary by 2 film historians.
A LEGENDARY LOVER Hardly a spoof, much less a historical biopic, ‘Fellini’s Casanova’ (1976) (Blu-ray, Kino Classics, R) has to rank amongst the Maestro’s strangest and chilliest films. Incredibly detailed, as if a dream has been conjured before us, ‘Casanova’ has Donald Sutherland as the legendary Italian womanizer. Sutherland was having an Italian phase at this point, working with Bernardo Bertolucci and Robert De Niro on the nearly 5-hour epic ‘1900’ where his shockingly evil pedophile murderer dominated.
Italian movie director Federico Fellini, center, discusses a scene with American director Paul Mazursky, right, as Fellini makes his debut as a film actor at Romes Cinecitta Studios on July 15, 1970. The Italian director plays an easy role, himself, for Alex in Wonderland, under Mazurskys direction, with American actor Donald Sutherland, left, in the title role of Alex Morrison, a dream- prone movie director who admires Fellini. (AP Photo)
All the usual Fellini elements are here – the great Giuseppe Rotunno’s cinematography, Danilo Donati’s costumes (the film’s sole Oscar win, it was also nominated for its screenplay adaptation of Casanova’s autobiography), a Nino Rota score and filming done entirely on sets in Rome. This was billed as Fellini’s English language debut. It’s really a deconstruction of the myth and a consideration of a most ordinary man. The Bonus: Booklet essay, audio commentary. For those who would like to watch in Italian with English subtitles, that is here as well.
GINA’S BACK ‘Cagefighter’ (Blu-ray, Screen Media, Not Rated) may hold few surprises in its elemental conflict between a cocky champ who rules the cage known as Legends and his cross promotional opponent, the mightiest of wrestling superstars, one Randy Stone (AEW champ Jon Moxley). Here amid the grunts, groans and sweat is Gina Gershon, always a welcome presence, as the fighter’s manager. The 2 combatants’ encounter leaves our champ down but if you’ve ever seen a ‘Rocky’ movie, you know it doesn’t mean out. Bonus: ‘The making of ‘Cagefighter’.
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