‘Clue’ with director Jonathan Lynn

clueposterFilm: Clue (1985)
Rated: PG
Directed by:
Jonathan Lynn
Written by:
John Landis and Jonathan Lynn
Starring:
Tim Curry as Wadsworth
Martin Mull as Col. Mustard
Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White
Christopher Lloyd as Professor Plum
Michael McKean as Mr. Green
Eileen Brennan as Mrs. Peacock
Lesley Ann Warren as Miss Scarlet
Colleen Camp as Yvette

 

countBy Count
Vardulon
 

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groupPre-screeening memories: It’s not often we get to say that a movie is utterly and completely unique, is it? There was simply nothing out there at all similar to Cluewhen it was first released, and that fact (along with my love of the boardgame and Christopher ‘Reverend Jim’ Lloyd) made it something I absolutely had to track down and see. Today, in the age of special features an alternate ending isn’t shocking or unusual, in fact, coming from a Hollywood production, we now almost think of it as odd if a film’s climax doesn’t go through two or three different iterations. But in 1985, the whole concept of multiple endings was unheard-of, and impossibly enthralling – going to see a movie a second time and having the ending change? Impossible! Does science even allow for that?

group3Which makes it a little funny that it wasn’t until years after seeing the film that I ever actually got to see those multiple endings. Residing solidly in the lower of the middle classes, I didn’t get out to movies much, and the concept of going to see the same movie twice was on the hilarious side. Strangely I have no real memory of the lack of two extra endings ruining the film for me at all. In many ways it was a perfect film to see at a really young age, full of capering and slapstick, and wordplay just clever enough that while I didn’t understand the naughtier bits, I could tell that something risque was definitely going on, which engaged my curiosity. Even the one solution I saw, in which (SPOILER ALERT) Miss Scarlet was the killer and Wadsworth worked for the FBI was perfectly satisfying, leaving me happy enough with the result that I didn’t really question what the other endings might have been.

kahnlloydNew memories: If there’s one thing I learned from my second viewing, however, it’s that I shouldn’t have been as complacent as a child. I should have demanded to be taken to another viewing and see the other endings, because it’s only once I’d seen all three that I could really appreciate what a masterpiece of comic construction this film is. The movie has to accomplish something almost miraculous – it has to not only work both as a comedy, keeping people laughing all the way through, and as a mystery, keeping them guessing, but it has to drop hints and leave enough clue that three separate endings all work perfectly without a plot hole in sight. The fact that it succeeds at all of these things is an amazing compliment to the writer/director Jonathan Lynn, who keeps the movie speeding along so that the audience never has a chance to do anything marvel at how entertained they are.

timcurryI could talk about one of the greatest comedic ensemble casts I’ve ever seen, or the Tim Curry performance that anchored the film and turned me into a lifelong fan of the actor, or how satisfying it was to finally see the film in its intended form, with all the endings intact – but I think my favorite thing about the film was that it entertained me exactly as much as an adult as it had on my first viewing all those years ago. And not just because I finally got all the jokes, but because it’s one of those rare movies with as much to offer adults as it does children, a comedy that anyone can enjoy, which doesn’t stop being funny on repeated viewings. I’m a little ashamed to have taken as long to get back to clue as I did, but it’s a mistake I won’t make again.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Clue’ podcast here

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lynnOur featured guest: Writer/ Director Jonathan Lynn

Now in his fourth decade of film, Mr. Lynn has served in almost every facet of the entertainment industry — stage, television, film, books, and shows no signs of slowing, having recently wrapped Wild Target with Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint, Rupert Everett and Martin Freeman.

His cinematic contributions prior to this include The Fighting Temptations (with Cuba Gooding Jr and some chick named Beyonce?), The Whole Nine Yards (starring Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry), Nuns on the Run (with Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane), and directed a young Marisa Tomei to an Oscar win in My Cousin Vinny.

Early in his distinguished career, from 1977 to 1981 Lynn served as Artistic Director of The Cambridge Theatre Company, where he produced more than forty plays, twenty of which he directed. The company’s production of Macbeth featuring Brian Cox toured the United Kingdom and India and staged a special performance for then Prime Minister Mrs Ghandi. Lynn went on to direct one of the companies at the National Theatre of Great Britain, which performed his Society of West End Theatres award-winning production of Three Men on a Horse (1987).

It was during this time that Mr. Lynn created for the BBC Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, regarded as one of the top series of all times by the British Film Institute.

And the acclaim from that series brought him to our shores to write Clue, a 1985 comedic murder-mystery based on the beloved board game, and starring a sterling comedic cast. It was his first forray into feature films, and Mr. Lynn has many a story to share about the experience.

Cheers, Mr. Lynn, and thank you for allowing us choose our weapon with which to pick your brain and solve some of the behind-the-scenes mysteries of Clue.

‘Rockula’ with writer/director Luca Bercovici

poster

Film: Rockula (1990)
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Luca Bercovici
Written by: Luca Bercovici and Jefery Levy
Starring: Dean Cameron as Ralph LaVie
                   Toni Basil as Phoebe LaVie
                   Thomas Dolby as Stanley
                   Tawny Fere as Mona
                   Susan Tyrrell as Chuck  
                   Bo Diddly as Axman

By Count Vardulon (naturally!)

dean2Pre-screeening memories: Rockula doesn’t exactly fit in neatly with the other movies I’ve covered for Natsukashi – they all represented formative experiences in my developing love for film, while I first saw Rockula when I was already out of my teens.

I don’t think Rockula is any less important than those films, because while those other films shaped my tastes in one way or another, Rockula is the first film I’d ever seen that seemed to have been made specifically for me.

Why does it seem that way? Simple – everyone has a unique sense of humor that values different things (wordplay, slapstick, irony) at different levels, and are generally too complex to explain in a sentence or two. If you want to gauge a person’s sense of humor, there is a simple method available – ask them what the single funniest situation possible is. While it’s not going to give you a complete understanding of that person or their humor, it’s a great first step.

If ever asked that question, I have an answer ready: The funniest thing possible is having a civil conversation with a monster. So it’s no surprise that Rockula would come in high on a list of my favorite films of all time, since it’s the story of a forlorn vampire trying to find love in the world of the Los Angeles club-rock scene.

deanguitarThe strange part about the movie is that, living in Canada, where the film was apparently never released, I’d never heard of it when it just sort of turned up one day. My writing partner and I had just started working together, and we had a habit of renting a few odd movies and brainstorming as we watched them. One time he came over announcing that he’d found my “favorite film that I’d never seen.” Since that’s essentially a challenge, we watched the film immediately, and I discovered that he was completely right. It wasn’t just that the movie was delightfully absurd, or the fact that I’m always impressed by original screen musicals, what captivated me most about the film was how confident it was. Almost as if the film had no idea how crazy it was. The premise is so odd that it’s nearly impossible to imagine it being presented without constant winks and nods at the audience, but there aren’t any to be found.

It’s an utterly absurd premise delivered with a completely straight face, and that’s basically my favorite type of comedic film. The fact that I had never heard of the movie before that day was proof enough that it hadn’t been a big success, but no matter how few people saw it, there was an audience for it.

This led me to believe that no matter how crazed or insane a movie might be, as long as it was made well, there would always be a group of people who would appreciate it, seek it out, and support it. With this in mind, my writing partner and I pledged to work on personal projects, eschewing tradition and trying to offer our own unique comedic vision to the world. And while that’s been a professionally disastrous decision, it’s also incredibly creatively fulfilling, and I can credit it largely to how impressed I was with Rockula.

Tragically, I was only able to see the movie that one time. The video store it was rented from went out of business soon after, and I was unable to find another copy anywhere, nor was it available on DVD. Never before had I regretted not illegally copying a videotape. It lived on in my memories, though, and in the constant references that my writing partner and I make to ‘Rapula’.

thomasNew memories with recent screening – I’d go so far as to state that every bad thing the internet has given the world has been equally weighed, if not outbalanced, by the boon that is Youtube. Essentially operating as an internet nostalgia repository, I can’t count the number of childhood memories it’s managed to refresh (although, to this day, it fails to offer the theme song from Captain Redbeard)

No, it wouldn’t be until the advent of Youtube years later that I would be able to see it again. And the film would prove to be everything I remembered it to be and more. Sure, it was full of my kind of comedy, but beyond that, I was surprised by just how well-made a movie it was. If that sounds like I’m damning it with faint praise, I don’t intend to, it’s just that so many of these ‘nostalgia’ movies turn out to have such glaring flaws that I wind up questioning my taste.

thomas 2Rockula, on the other hand, succeeds at everything it sets out to do. Not only is it a wonderfully fun vampire romantic comedy, but in the part I’d completely forgotten, the songs are just great. They all fit the period and tone of the film perfectly, and are hummable in their own right. I can’t remember the last time I wanted a soundtrack this badly, but one was never released. Luckily there’s the internet, where the songs can be found in their film versions, but it’s a poor substitute for a studio soundtrack.

Just as watching the film on Youtube is a poor substitute for being able to buy this movie on DVD. Look on any shelf in the DVD section of a electronics store (that’s where people buy DVDs now, right?) and you’ll see a few dozen movies that aren’t as entertaining or as high quality as Rockula. There’s no excuse for this movie not being out there, and I’m officially making it my quest to get this movie released on DVD. I’m not really sure what form that quest is going to take, but I’m very passionate about it. Which makes this the second time I’ve been inspired by Rockula. Can there be a better grounds for recommending a film?

Also, Rapula name-checks William Saffire. If you were ever looking for the definition of ‘reaching for a rhyme’, that’s it.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Rockula’ podcast with writer/director Luca Bercovici

or rock out right here with our little on-site player:

Our featured guest: Luca Bercovici

lucaLuca is the mad genius who put the rock in Rockula as its writer and director. The multi-talented artist got his first cinematic break with Demi Moore in the 3-D horror flick Parasite. As a writer, Luca began in 1984, crafting the first of the Ghoulies films. The film was the highest-grossing independent film of 1985 and, like the Ghoulies themselves, went on to multiply three sequels.

After Rockula fell victim to the changing hands of studios in 1988 and unjustly fell off the radar, Luca went on to direct the thriller Dark Tide, and ghouliesthen revisited the horror genre with The Granny with Stella Stevens. Luca continued to alternate in front of and behind the camera, starring in mainstream fare such as American Flyers, Clean and Sober, K2 and Drop Zone, while helming The Chain, Convict 762 and Luck of the Draw. granny

Luca now splits his time between the states and Budapest, Hungary, where he serves as Head of Production for Raleigh Film Budapest.

He has some exciting news of future projects (hint: Mickey Rourke reprising a beloved role) which he divulges to the Natsukashi listeners and we thank Luca for recounting his time spent creating the cult film that is begging for a DVD release, Rockula.

For those interested, you can view Rockula chopped up into nine parts on Youtube. The first segment is below. If you have an interest in getting this film a proper DVD release, drop us a line and we will make sure it gets in the proper hands.

Crank up the speakers and enjoy…

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