Saturday, November 13, 2010

HONORING THE HORRENDOUS

dino

As you’ve probably heard by now, prolific film producer Dino De Laurentiis has passed and his funeral will be held this coming Monday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. Now if you were a kid in the 70s like me, then you probably became familiar with Mr. De Laurentiis through his efforts to bring the 1976 remake of King Kong to fruition. Yeah, I know. The greatest generation got the classic original with Willis O'Brien's brilliant stop-motion animation, the latest generation got Peter Jackson’s lavishly bloated CGI love-fest, and us… we got a crusading bearded liberal being chased by a guy in a monkey suit. But what the heck, it was the 70s! I saw Dino’s Kong  in the theater and I still watch it today. It’s too much fun not to.

Okay, so not every film the man was involved with was a classic, but he does have some really good stuff in his 500+ film oeuvre, including what many regard as one of the greatest of the old school Biblical epics, Barabbas. He was nominated for over 35 Oscars and won the Irving G.Thalberg Memorial Award for “demonstrating a consistently high quality of motion picture production”. It’s just that for every Serpico to his credit, there’s also a Mandingo. Face it, there’s a reason Michael Medved called him "Dino De Horrendous". But we bad movie lovers certainly don’t hold that against him. I mean, come on, just think of all the things we would have missed without him.

We might never have heard Arnold Schwarzenegger explain that what is best in life is “to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.”

We might never have gotten to see a greasy underfed Sting prance around in his speedo and menace others with pointy weapons.

We might never have seen Bruce Campbell fight the Army of Darkness.

We might never have gotten to see a greasy underfed Grace Jones prance around in her speedo and menace others with pointy weapons. (Or was that just Sting again in blackface? I’m not really sure.)

sting

We might never have seen Gary Busey get his butt kicked by a priest turned werewolf.

We might never have gotten to see a not so greasy, not at all underfed Brian Blessed prance around in his speedo (and a pair of goofy looking wings) and menace others with pointy weapons.

We might never have seen Barbarella. (Okay, I don’t know if that would have been a good or a bad thing, but at any rate, we never would have seen it.)

All I’m saying is that guys like De Laurentiis understood the universality of film. He knew there was space on the shelf for Federico Fellini’s La Strada and for Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive, so he got them both made. The way Dino De Laurentis “indiscriminately mixed the high-minded with the schlock” was considered a limitation by critics like The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy, but for obvious reasons, we consider it a strength around these parts. God bless you, Mr. De Laurentiis, and may He grant you eternal rest and let perpetual light shine upon you.

10 comments:

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I remember that version of King Kong! For some reason, it didn't hit the Philippines until the 80s, when I was old enough to remember movies seen in the cinema.

This is a great tribute to De Laurentiis, Eegahinc! There is a world of difference between the "universality" you see in his films and the "mass market commercial potential" that seems to be driving his successors today--and movie lovers everywhere shouldn't forget that!

And now I must think about finishing that Conan live blog I started last year . . . Or was it two years ago? Ack! =(

(former) Rocket Scientist said...

I've never paid much attention to the directors of the movies I watch (Penn & Teller of TCM Monster vision say they are MOVIES not FILMS) except for Roger Corman (I loved the recent and ridiculous "Sharktapus") but now will go back and look. I had no idea that D Laurentis directed so many of the movies I love. Kong WAS particularly horrible - I mean memorable. :)

EegahInc said...

"There is a world of difference between the "universality" you see in his films and the "mass market commercial potential" that seems to be driving his successors today"

Well, I think the thing with Dino is that, despite the fact that he started a few companies himself, he was basically an independent filmmaker. He made stuff he thought would make a buck AND be interesting. Sometimes they didn't make a buck, but they were almost always interesting. Today's producers are so focused on the dollar that they're afraid to invest in something untried or original. I mean, Cats & Dogs 2, really?

"I had no idea that D Laurentis directed so many of the movies I love."

I was aware of some of the bigger stuff he produced like Flash Gordon and Conan, but even I was shocked just how many of the lower budgeted movies I've seen over the years had his hand in them. Danger: Diabolik alone gets him my admiration.

Anonymous said...

I had thought Armand Assante as Odysseus for TV, and Judge Dredd were his, too, but they aren't. Certainly "The Scorpion King" desperately needed him (along with a decent script). I think he probably had a lot of influence on other filmmakers that no one really wants to talk about.

Thanks for the write up on him. My husband and I will probably do a retro-tour of his stuff for Date Night for the next few weeks (maybe not Dune).
Xena Catolica

EegahInc said...

Well, like Demille, De Laurentiis was known for over-the-top spectacle, so a lot of modern filmmakers try to copy that for sure. But I think they're missing his courage to try new things with the formula. Dune may be a disaster, but it's a fascinating disaster I'd watch ten times over before sitting through Transformers again.

romishgraffiti said...

We might never have gotten to see a greasy underfed Grace Jones prance around in her speedo and menace others with pointy weapons. (Or was that just Sting again in blackface? I’m not really sure.)

ohhh man you are naughty!

newguy40 said...

That was a very nice post.

As a child of the 70's too, I have a great many fond memories.

Flash Gordon is a plain old fun movie. The Queen sound track alone is worth the price of admission. Not to mention the lovely and luscious Ornella Muti as Ming's daughter.

EegahInc said...

"ohhh man you are naughty!"

Hey, I'm just posting photos here. You be the judge.

" The Queen sound track alone is worth the price of admission."

No argument here. The music from the hawk men attack sequence is great for whenever you need a pick me up.

PaperSmyth said...

Nice tribute.

That is actually (shock-horror!) the only King Kong I've seen.

RomishGraffiti, if you think Eegah is bad, you do not want to meet my husband who once called me Barbarella at a gathering. Word of advice to husbands out there: do not call your wife Barbarella. Especially in front of the Bible study group and most especially not if said Bible study group is mixed company. (No, I have not seen it! I'm going out on a limb here and guessing there moments where people are manaced with pointy weapons.)

*sigh* Humility ties in here somewhere.

Now I need to find something by Queen to cue up. After that I'll say a few prayers for the guy. And some for De Laurentiis, too. :-)

EegahInc said...

"I'm going out on a limb here and guessing there moments where people are menaced with pointy weapons."

Um, among other things, yes. Beyond that, though, you'll just have to discuss it with your husband. Before you do, however, give me some time to add him to my prayer list.