Season's Greetings to one and all! Had a busy week what with all that festive malarkey and whatnot. Oh yeah, got you a "secret handshake" for Christmas, alright. Self indulgence beyond mortal comprehension follows after the break.
So I noticed this interesting piece by Barry Norman in the 1979 Radio And TV Times Christmas Edition about a film I didn't realise existed:
JACK KIRBY'S THE NEW GODS (Amicus Productions (UK/USA),1975) Directed by Kevin Connor Screenplay by Harold Pinter Based on the DC Comics creations of Jack Kirby
Cast: Richard Burton (Darkseid) Robert Shaw (Orion) Michael York (Light Ray) Doug McClure (Scott Free) Raquel Welch (Big Barda) Superman (Robert Mitchum) Caroline Munro (Beautiful Dreamer) Malcolm McDowell (Glorious Godfrey) Peter Cushing (DeSaad) Christopher Lee (Metron) Rod Steiger (Terrible Turpin) Billy Dee Williams (Shilo Norman) Woody Strode (The Black Racer) Peter Cook (Funky Flashman) Dudley Moore (House Roy) Peter Ustinov (High Father) Jim Dale (Jimmy Olsen)
Produced by Milton Subotsky & Samuel Z. Arkoff Original Music by Roy Budd Special Effects by Roger Dicken & Derek Meddings
Did You Know? Scott Free was originally to be played by Melvyn Hayes. The hand turning the pages in the latter part of the film belongs to Ridley Scott who only stopped to ask for directions. Richard Burton's scenes were all filmed in front of a backdrop in his local pub while he waited for his pint of Guinness to settle. In order to perfect his Method Rod Steiger had himself blown up. Twice. To this day Malcolm McDowell pretends he wasn't in this film. And he's in Mr. MAGOO.
Goofs. In his introductory scene Darkseid can clearly be seen with a Silk Cut in his hand. Jim Dale's ginger wig moves position from shot to shot. The camera often forgets to move away from Caroline Munro even though the other actors are doing stuff and talking and everything.
About The Film. Almost lost in the tides of history the Amicus production of JACK KIRBY’S THE NEW GODS will “blow” your mind!!! In 1974 Milton Subotsky was approached by Carmine Infantino to bring Jack Kirby’s creations to the silver screen. The kids were wild, crazy and lovin’ in the streets and Infantino thought if he could capture that audience then, perhaps, money might fall from the sky like a rain of dead birds whose hearts had mysteriously all stopped at once.
Most of the talent involved in JK'sNG was British. The British are generally just glad of the chance to get out of the house and are eternally surprised that people pay them for something they’d probably be doing anyway. They tend to work for buttons, basically. This appealed to the budget conscious Subotsky but later bit him on the tailpipe when Pinter left the production in a huff after a contretemps regarding the proper pronunciation of “patronising”. When informed that his name would be removed from the film and that he would receive no payment he remarked, “And I could punch you in the lungs so hard they will fill with your own shit.” Pinter was paid in cash thirty seconds later. In the absence of a screenwriter and a rapidly evaporating budget the decision was made to film Kirby’s tale as it was on the page. Literally.
After the live action conclusion of New Gods #3 the rest of the film consists of the camera panning over actual comic pages in the direction of the action. Nothing is omitted and the only addition is a 20 minute scene in which Big Barda and Beautiful Dreamer wrestle in a rainstorm. “That was for the foreign markets. Yes, um, that’s why that happened.” said Kevin Connor looking a bit shifty. A soundtrack of Roy Budd's characteristically captivating funky warbling and a smattering of Northern Soul songs were added with the dialogue being spoken by the actors as though they were in a radio play. Sound effects were largely provided by a man with an empty sweet tin, some sand and a hammer.This won the film its only Oscar nomination.
The cast themselves had a grand old time by all accounts. Peter Cushing recalled that, "I just can’t speak highly enough of my fellow actors, Dear-heart! They were the very epitome of professionalism! The only real damper on the whole thing was when that scamp Robert Shaw was declared legally dead on three separate occasions due to his love of the grape. And the grain. Oh, and the catering was lovely! Such buns!” Christopher Lee admitted, “It wasn't as bad as when my dog died.” Even Richard Burton effusively praised the film saying, "It paid my Tax Bill for that year and I had some left over for some gaspers, so I did, Boyo! Where's Liz? I feel another marriage coming on!"
Interestingly no one who had ever worked for Marvel Comics was allowed to view the film and this impediment remains in place to this day. This was the result of Jack Kirby suddenly appearing on set like a distressed fireplug in high waisters, he was clearly discombobulated and professed to have received a vision of the future. A vision in which after Kirby's death Stan Lee claimed under oath that Jack Kirby had not created anything and that he, Stan Lee, was merely humouring him all along. Also, that in this bizarre vision Marvel were not paying Kirby or his estate any form of acknowledgement for the creations upon which a multi-billion company was based. Although no one at the time could barely credit such outlandish moral vacuity so intense was Kirby’s belief that Subotsky agreed to his bizarre demand. “He was so upset he almost stopped drawing. We thought the poor guy was going to pop a vein, so we caved.” remembered someone who was probably there at the time.
Critical reception was less than warm to say the least with Alexander Walker declaring in The London Evening Standard, “Oh, for f****’s sake!” while Pauline Kael’s New Yorker review consisted simply of the phrase, "I resented the gift of sight.” Audiences of the time also rejected the film preferring instead some daft film about a rubber shark which eats Robert Shaw. JK'sNG has since found a new life on DVD/Blu-Ray which thanks to technological advances makes it look and sound even worse than ever. This kind of ironic jackassery appeals to hip young people more than you would credit. Trust me, I know. The film was financed primarily by one Janek Noh; about whom nothing is known beyond the fact that he embarked on two later, and even more disastrous, cinematic endeavours; SHAKO! (1985) which led to the Children’s Film Foundation being shut down by the Police and CHAYKIN!: THE MUSICAL! (1993) which was successfully prosecuted for obscenity in Texas. Noh is believed by some to be writing idiocies on other people's web sites, which some might call abusing their hospitality somewhat.
So I guess that was a bit like that time your husband turned up drunk on Christmas Eve and thrust some flowers from the all-night garage at you. And you remembered: it's the thought that counts!
Merry Christmas or what have you!