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Ask 411 Movies for 10.15.12: Column in the Woods!
Posted by Leonard Hayhurst on 10.15.2012

Obscure Television Series of the Week
Title: Mr. Smith
Air Dates: Sept. 23 to Dec. 16, 1983
Network: NBC
Cast: Leonard Frey as Raymond Holyoke, Tim Dunigan as Tommy Atwood, Laura Jacoby as Ellie Atwood, Terri Garber as Dr. July Tyson, Stuart Margolin as Dr. Klein, Ed Weinberger as the voice of Mr. Smith
Premise: Cha-Cha was a regular circus orangutan until accidentally drinking an experimental enzyme gave him genius intellect and the ability to talk. The U.S. government set him up with a job in Washington D.C. as a government consultant. Raymond was his aide, Tommy was his owner and Ellie his sister. Dr. Tyson studied Mr. Smith and Dr. Klein was her boss. Smith's brother Bo Bo also lived with the motley crew. The orangutan that played Smith was more famously Clyde in the Clint Eastwood movies Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can.

Ask 411 Remembers
Actor and football player Alex Karras, 77, died Oct. 10 of kidney failure. After his NFL playing career, he's probably best remembered as Mongo in Blazing Saddles and the father on Webster. He also appeared in Buffalo '66, Victor Victoria, Against All Odds, Porky's, When Time Ran Out and FM.

Actor Leo O'Brien, 41, also died Oct. 10. He was the brother of Master Gee from the Sugarhill Gang and is best remembered as the little brother of Bruce Leroy in The Last Dragon. Cause of death has not been released. He was shot three times about a year ago in Harlem.

Actress, athlete and musician Sammi Kane Kraft, 20, died in a car crash Oct. 9. She played Amanda in the 2005 remake of the Bad New Bears.

Voice actor Ken Sansom, 85, died following a stroke. He voiced Rabbit in many Winnie the Pooh projects.

Q: Leonard,
I came across your March 28, 2011 column "You Can't Do That in This Column!" where a visitor was asking about the documentary "You Can't Do That on Film."  I'm the director of that film, and I'm pleased to announce that it will be coming to DVD on October 16, 2012 from Shout! Factory in North America.  It's a Shout! Select title that will be available exclusively through their website (http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/215640) and it's now available for pre-order.

I would be extremely grateful if you could pass this information along in one of your columns, and perhaps any other relevant sections of the site, so that the public will be made aware of its release.  I'm trying to spread the word as much as possible, since this is a truly independent film.  Any help is greatly appreciated.

All the best,
David Dillehunt
DND Films

A: Thank you for passing on the link and the information. To the readers, I've contacted Mr. Dillehunt on getting a media copy of the documentary for 411 and I hope to be bringing you a review of the DVD soon.

Q: I was watching the Alien Quadrilogy on Blue Ray, and some of the information about Alien 3 was particularly interesting.  Many of the people involved in the project spoke about a writer/director's vision of Alien 3 taking place on a wooden planet, and would heavily involve a monastery.  Ultimately the studio came to the conclusion that that vision was either financially or creatively unworkable and hence they went with the prison that was in the final release. 

Anyway, that got me thinking about what you think would be the best example of studio interference ruining what could have been an otherwise interesting film.  Can you think of any examples along these lines--either in the writing stage or in the production stage? 
-Michael L

A: Back during the studio era, studios pretty much guided most films made on their lots. Studio decisions helped to create many classic flicks, from Warner Bros. changing the name of Everybody Comes to Rick's to Casablanca based on their previous hit Algiers to MGM producer Mervyn LeRoy taking Richard Thorpe off of The Wizard of Oz and installing George Cukor to basically reset the whole creative direction until Victor Fleming was able to step in as director. MGM also didn't think a pure fantasy film would do well and demanded the framing sequence to establish that it was a dream of Dorothy's.

In the modern era, studios are more known for negative meddling where they change the creative vision of a director or writer or re-edit a film after test audiences have their say. Sam Raimi basically made the first two Evil Dead movies without any Hollywood help, so it must have been nice for him to actually have a budget and some production assistance on Army of Darkness. In the original ending, Ash was to drink a potion that would basically put him in suspended animation to reach his time. One drop equaled 100 years. Naturally, Ash screws it up and wakes up to a post apocalyptic future where he screams in shock and fear, kind of like the end of part two.

Test audiences, didn't like the bleak ending and Universal had Raimi do a happier one, where Ash is back home, but still fighting deadites. The original ending fit the series, but not necessarily the more humorous tone of Army of Darkness. The new ending was actually well liked by most fans of the whole franchise as it gave Ash a final, triumphant, badass moment.

In another name change, Cameron Crowe wanted to simply call Almost Famous Untitled. Dreamworks felt the title was uninspired and hard to sell and had him change it. They also had him cut a lot of the band on the road aspects of the movie to focus more on the love story between Penny and William. These deleted scenes appear on a director's cut DVD edition of the movie which has the name Untitled.

I'm sure readers will chime in with some more, but when you Google 'studio meddling' or 'studio interference' you get more negatives than positives.

Q: Hey Leonard. Hoping to help you out with the column. Got a couple of queries for ya. (And I seriously apologize in advance if you hadn't seen the movie I'm about to ask about. I've waited a while, but still. Firmly my bad. If you haven't seen it, perhaps I should have waited longer. )

1. With regards to Cabin In The Woods, (MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT!) in the first act it is made clear that if the subjects in question (The college kids) do not 'transgress', they therefore cannot be 'punished'. In other words, if they don't go down into the creepy cellar of the attic and fixate upon the objects therein, they'll be okay. But of course they do, and in quick order each of them fixate on one object or another. While the 'virgin' winds up bringing forth The Redneck Torture Family, at the same time the slut was courting The Bride, The Jock was courting the Hell Lord, (Cenobite/pinhead knockoff) and the brain courted the ballerina, or as my best guess based upon the picture of the whiteboard (Link enclosed below) The sugerplum fairy.

All that is pretty much clear cut. However, the stoner/fool character archtype finds himself fixated upon an old film strip. Seeing as I don't have a blu-ray player, what would he have summoned as a result? 

Also, while I'm at it, (AGAIN, MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT) while we get to see all of these disparate horror elements unleashed en masse in the final act, what would you have liked to see as the primary villain the college kids had to face? I'd personally have to go with Angry Molesting Tree. Yeah, we saw it before with The Evil Dead, but that is just so much a wonderfully descriptive name.  Although for the sake of being truly original, I'd pick Reptilius, because I have a hard time fathoming what that would look like, and I'm not at all sure it was included in the final batshit crazy mash-up. Your thoughts?
-Ben Piper

A: I haven't seen Cabin in the Woods, but have heard good things. However, my sister thought it was stupid and she'll watch a sharktopus fight a space tornado on the SyFy Channel any day of the week.

My initial guess on a film strip would be a reference to found footage movies like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. Looking over a list of all the monsters mentioned or seen in the movie, nothing seems to match up. The closest would be Kiko, seen in the Japan ritual, a floating girl ghost that comes from The Ring.

According to The Cabin in the Woods wiki, the film reel if watched would have summoned the werewolf as the images on the frames of the film were werewolves.

I can't imagine how a unicorn would be a scary killing machine. Maybe it runs everybody through with its horn. Also, if I had a choice I'd rather die at the hand of sexy witches than regular witches. According to Joss Whedon the character listed as Kevin would have looked like "some guy who works at Best Buy" and his scenes were cut from the movie. Apparently he wold have been a Sin City reference of a nerdy looking guy who dismembers people. However, when in doubt, I'll always go with an evil clown.

Q: With the new James Bond movie Skyfall coming out soon, there's something about the recent films that bugs me I didn't know if you could explain. In Goldeneye, Judi Dench is established as a new M working with a veteran Bond. In Casino Royale, a reboot of the franchise, we have a rookie Bond working with a veteran M, played by Judi Dench in the same character from the previous movies. Even for James Bond movies that seems like confusing continuity.

A: Pierce Brosnan had signed to do four James Bond movies, which he fulfilled with Die Another Day. Originally, producers wanted him to return for Casino Royale, but rumors have Brosnan and producers realizing it didn't make sense for him to star in a franchise reboot given his age and history with the character. Even though there has been massive actor overturn in the Bond franchise, there has always been certain elements that carried from film to film. The role of Q, played by Desmond Llewelyn for a bulk of the series, was always sort of the friendly face fans could relate to. Judi Dench was well liked by fans and critics as M, so she was retained due to popularity and to provide that series link.

A fan theory I read on Cracked.com actually explains a lot if taken to be true. James Bond isn't an individual, but a code name given to whoever has the 007 designation at any given time. In the last outings for Brosnan and Timothy Dalton they went rogue and were fired. In George Lazenby's only outing in the part, his wife was murdered shortly after the wedding ceremony. That would be enough to make someone give up the spy game. So, MI6 turned to the retired previous Bond, Sean Connery, for an important mission until they could train a new Bond, Roger Moore. By extension, the same theory could also hold true for CIA agent Felix Leiter, since 7 actors have played him over the years.

Q: I have a question, or rather my mother does and my google-fu is failing me slightly. It's about the opening credits of The Newsroom, it features a few historical/beloved newsreaders in it. My mother knows the name of two of them, but cannot name the third. Can you help me out and name them all? Thank you.

A: You could have helped me out and named the two she knew. I was actually surprised I knew them on sight. In order in the below shown intro, the newsmen are Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley.

Don't die.
"Yes, you had Zombies. But this is Zombie Redneck Torture Family. Entirely separate thing. It's like the difference between an elephant and an elephant seal. "


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