Archive for Harold Robbins


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2013 by dcairns

Isn’t that GREAT? And quite advanced for 1969 — UV lighting and all that.

From THE ADVENTURERS, directed under protest by Lewis Gilbert, who wanted to do OLIVER! instead. Even late in his career, Carol Reed was a better director, but Gilbert would have brought passion to it, so who knows?

I’m posting the only three good bits of this awful film so you don’t have to sit through it.

Nobody except Charlie Bluhdorn at Paramount wanted to make this. His head of production Robert Evans thought it was a terrible, old-fashioned idea. Gilbert said it was “a bullshit story.” If he could have rattled through it in ninety minutes it might have passed, but it’s, I think, approximately one hundred and eighty-seven hours long.

Here is Charles Aznavour’s sex dungeon, which might have made the whole film worthwhile were it not four hundred and eighty-seven hours long. I posted some stills from this before but it’s worth seeing it in motion, which I was unable to arrange previously due to technical troubles.

Delia Boccardo has wild sex with Bekim Fehmiu, some statues and a zoom lens. This is quite bold, and nearly brilliant — filled with contempt for the material, Gilbert tries to bring it to life with desperate measures, and the result is very possibly the most interesting scene he ever made. The statue cutaways, though cheesy, WORK, I think — it’s like porno Minnelli, or sexed-up Eisenstein. And then he starts giving Delia a good seeing-to with the zoom lens and it becomes just silly. But still better than the rest of the film, and probably better than most of Paramount’s output that year.

The film is edited by Anne V. Coates (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, THE ELEPHANT MAN, OUT OF SIGHT) and the cutting is intense and has real SNAP. I just wish she’d forgotten to include all the bits in between these clips.


Charles Aznavour’s Sex Dungeon

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2013 by dcairns



I’d read about this movie in two places — one was Robert Evans’ autohagiography The Kid Stays in the Picture, where he blames Paramount CEO Charlie Bluhdorn for choosing to make this bloated, old-fashioned Harold Robbins adaptation with untested star Bekim Fehmiu, much against his wishes. The movie tries to compensate for its dated approach by pouring in sex by the bucketload, with decorous nudity provided by the gorgeous Delia Boccardo and Leigh Taylor-Young, but to no avail. There’s a rather zany, zoomtastic sex scene with the former and Fehmiu which must have been startling stuff in ’69.

The other place I read of it is Lewis Gilbert’s autobio, All My Flashbacks, where he bitterly bemoans being removed from his dream picture, OLIVER! and forced to make this pile of tat. The fact that Carol Reed won the best directing Oscar for OLIVER! in his stead perhaps has something to do with the intensity of his regret: if Reed could win for the rather tired job of work he put in, surely an eager hack like Gilbert could do likewise.


Gilbert seems to have put all he could into the turkey he was handed, stuffing it with orgies, battles, proto-disco fashion shows (with UV lighting and splitscreen) and star cameos. Claude Renoir shot it and Anne V. Coates cut it and it still sucks. “It was a bullshit story,” is Gilbert’s own, accurate, description.


Also included — Charles Aznavour’s sex dungeon, a groovy, queasy palace of porn. Tony Masters, who had just designed 2001 (and would go on to DUNE), created the sets, and one feels Kubrick must surely have been watching. In fact, Masters creates an even more stylish, beautiful and sinister objectification parlour than John Barry (not the composer) would achieve for CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Both designers must surely have been influenced by the kinky sculptures of Allen Jones (in fact Kubrick admitted it and initially tried to buy Jones’ work) but Masters’ versions are BETTER — they throw in a Hans Bellmer influence, merging body parts and furniture together in a way HR Giger would approve of (the HR stands for Human Resources, in case you wondered).


The groovy entrance hall gives way to a more dungeon-like stage, with soft screens hilariously distorted by mannequin breasts which press against them from behind, making pseudo-erotic bulges in the fabric. It’s a ludicrous and tragically mechanistic parody of sex, and fills one with pity and revulsion for Aznavour’s character — the thought of anyone going to all that trouble to so little effect. I have no idea if that was the emotion we are supposed to feel, but there it is. I don’t mean the red room with the white sculpture furniture, which would suit an erotomaniac Bond villain — we’d all like one of those. I mean the green-tinged dungeon stage set with the titty wall.

THE ADVENTURERS may be three hours of mainly tedium, and an embarrassment to everyone who worked on it (certainly to Evans and Gilbert), but you have to admire this one setting. Or maybe you don’t. I’m not you.

All My Flashbacks

The Kid Stays in the Picture: A Hollywood Life

The Adventurers