Trial by Fire
The film plods at points, trudging along, and there are a few misguided narrative "devices" tacked on, but still, "Trial by Fire" bristles with anger.
Q. The premise of "Indecent Proposal" might not actually be as outlandish as it sounds. The next time you see Elizabeth Taylor, give her a jolt by suddenly and unexpectedly asking her about the time FRANK SINATRA offered to pay her a MILLION DOLLARS for a single night's roll in the hay. -- Hank Cleary, White Plains, N.Y.
A. Tell you what, HANK. First, YOU ask HIM.
Q. An update on that Tim Burton film about Ed Wood Jr. that you mentioned a while ago: It IS going to be made, with Johnny Depp in the lead role. Here's what Depp said about it in my local newspaper: "Tim's basing the film pretty much on fact. You don't need to embellish the truth when it's this wild. For example, Wood was worried when he was fighting in World War II, but not because he was afraid he'd get killed. No, he was worried that he'd only be wounded, and then somebody would discover he was wearing women's underwear." -- Jeff Levin, Rochester, N.Y.
A. Thanks, Jeff. For those who don't know, Ed Wood was the director who became an underground cult hero by making some of the worst movies of all time, including "Plan 9 from Outer Space" and the somewhat autobiographical "Glen or Glenda?" The biopic by Tim ("Batman") Burton was green-lighted at Columbia, but then, according to Variety, the studio balked at Burton's insistence on shooting it in black and white. Now Paramount, Touchstone and Universal are bidding for it. It goes without saying that a biopic on a Z-movie producer should be in b&w, of course.
A. Two foreign countries, actually--England and Ireland. But the best picture category is open to any film in the English language. That means paradoxically that an American film in Spanish, such as "El Norte," would be eligible only in the foreign language film category.
Q. Can anyone explain the thinking behind the idiocy of remaking classic movies? I can't think of a single remake of a classic that was an improvement. "Born Yesterday" is a case in point. Gentlemen, if it ain't broke, don't fix it! On the other hand, if Hollywood has a property that bombed because it was poorly done but had an excellent story line, go ahead and give that another shot. But this doesn't mean to remake "Lost Horizon" as a musical.-- A. Frisch, Chicago
Q. While watching "The Prince of Tides" on HBO, imagine my horror when I noticed that several scenes had been cut! Some of them, pivotal to the story. Now, mind you, these scenes were not of a sexual nature so I was really surprised they had been cut. I'm really angry, since when you subscribe to a premium channel, such as HBO,one of their key advertising lines is that you get the uncut original, just as it appeared in theaters. -- Annelise I. Pichardo, Rego Park, N.Y.
A. HBO does indeed show movies in their original theatrical versions. And director Barbra Streisand has a no-cut provision in her contracts. Perhaps you are a victim of the Phantom Scene Syndrome, in which the imagination provides "memories" of scenes that were not actually in the film.
Q. I'm a theatre manager and get to see movies many, many, many times. I thought I would point out a minor error in "Indecent Proposal." Early in the movie, Woody Harrelson is shaving and Demi Moore is watching and talking to him. He shaves the right side of his face and has just begun to work on his left when (lovebirds that they are) they start smooching. When you see Harrelson again, there is shaving cream ALL OVER HIS FACE! In the next scene Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson make love. While they are doing this, Demi has left the iron on and Woody's pants become scorched. With Woody on top of her and the two engaged in a passionate embrace, Demi says, "Your pants are on fire!" Woody replies with an almost bashful look, "You have no idea." At this Demi lets loose with a delightful laugh that seems genuine, un-rehearsed, and spontaneous. Was this a bit of improvisation on Harrelson's part? -- Thomas E. Sisk, Jr., Greensboro, N.C.
A. Or was Harrelson perhaps indicating that he was indeed aroused during the scene? Shows how people's minds work. What I was wondering during the same scene was, how long can a pair of pants burn before two people in the same room smell the smoke?
Q. Do you have any additional information regarding the investigation into Brandon Lee's death? I saw Stephen Seagal on CNN saying that he thought it was murder. Besides that, not a word from anyone. I would think some of the celebs would be up in arms about such a tragedy and screaming their heads off. I, a movie-goer nobody, was so outraged about it. I wrote letters to Carolco and the Motion Picture Assn. Of America. I stressed in my letter to Carolco not to have the bad taste and release this film, billing it as Brandon Lee's last. If the only way I can protest about this situation is by witholding my movie dollars from such incompetent morons, I WILL. -- Kimberly R. Davis, Chicago
A. The official investigation indicates Brandon Lee's death was accidental, although negligence and carelessness are suspected. No charges have been filed. The question of taste is a tricky one. What is worse--to make TV quickies exploiting the deaths of the Waco cultists, or to release Brandon Lee's only starring role? If I were Lee, I would want my final performance to be seen.
Q. Is it my imagination or advance movie trailers often use the theme music from another movie as background? Recently I've heard the themes from "Willow" used for "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves," "The Rocketeer" used for "Forever Young" and then "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves" for "Sommersby." Is this a common practice and do the owners of the original themes approve of and get compensation? -- Susan Dunlop, Reston, VA.
A. You have an excellent ear. Often the earliest coming attractions are released before the music for a new film has been scored, so a studio will reach back to appropriate music it already owns. Everybody gets paid.
Q. "Goldfinger" was on television the other night and I would like to settle a couple of questions about this movie. (1) I recall this movie being released with Goldfinger's jet pilot being named "Tushy Galore" instead of "Pussy Galore." Is this true and why was the charactor renamed? (2) Is there any truth to the rumor that when Goldfinger steals the gold from Fort Knox, that influenced President Nixon to have the U.S. get off the Gold standard? -- Jack Ferguson, Rockaway, N.J.
A. (1) As I recall from seeing the film, the character was indeed named "Pussy Galore." I cannot for the life of me think why the character would be renamed. (2) No truth at all. Actually, what Nixon wanted was to hire Odd Job as an aide.
Q. Was David Prowse the only actor to ever play Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies? I know James Earl Jones was used as the voice, but did anyone "stand in" for the image of Vader's face? This will settle a lively discussion in our family! -- Fred Urrutia, Livermore, CA.
Q. In watching "The Silence of the Lambs" the other night, my wife Sara came across another hidden tidbit. After Lecter has been transferred to Memphis, and Clarice is asking him how to catch Buffalo Bill, he tells her: "First principles, Clarice. Simplicity." Well, "Simplicity" is the name of a type of dress pattern, and dress making is the favorite pastime of the serial killer, Buffalo Bill. An interesting aside: we have two cats--Hannibal the Cannibal, and Clarice. You wouldn't believe the weird looks we get from people when they ask what our cats are named. -- Dan Buchan, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA
A. Those names wouldn't get anyone very worked up here in Chicago.
Q. Is George Lucas still planning to complete his "Star Wars" saga? The first trilogy was released years ago, of course, but "Star Wars" fans are eagerly awaiting news about the rest of the film series. -- Jennifer Steinbeck, LaGrange, IL
A. Lucas is currently in an early stage of pre-production on the next trilogy, and plans eventually to complete all nine of the films he first mapped out. It will take years. He complains that special effects have grown so expensive that if he had to start all over today, the original "Star Wars" could never be made.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A tribute to Doris Day.