Considered by many to be the architect of wuxia cinema, King Hu was to martial arts was John Ford was to the western. Beginning with his 1966 Shaw Brothers adventure Come Drink With Me, Hu took a pulp genre associated with little more than cheap entertainment and period adventures, and fashioned from it some of the industry’s most revered and enduring cinematic offerings.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, The Naked Prey remains the only film directed by Cornel Wilde to be widely available, a situation that based on this example, is a lamentable state of affairs indeed.
An incredibly physical actor, who was at least as proficient an athlete, Wilde found himself regularly typecast in classically heroic roles after moving to Hollywood. He had been offered a place on the US Olympic fencing team in 1936, but turned it down to pursue his acting career. In 1940, Wilde played Tybalt in Laurence Olivier’s New York stage production of Romeo & Juliet, for which he also choreographed the sword fights.
Known primarily for his war films and crime dramas, American director Samuel Fuller also directed a quartet of westerns, the last of which being 1957’s Forty Guns. The film was part of a deal struck with 20th Century Fox after the success of Fuller’s breakout film, about the Korean War, The Steel Helmet. Wooed by the studio’s dedication to making “better movies” rather than lining their own pockets, Fuller signed a seven-picture deal.
Perhaps best known as the film for which a ten-year-old Tatum O’Neal won herself a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award, Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon is a beautifully constructed Depression-era caper brimming with heart and powered by a pair of flawless performances.
It is no secret that Sean Connery grew to hate James Bond long before he stopped playing the character. In fact, he was so reluctant to return as 007 for Diamonds Are Forever, after George Lazenby walked away from the franchise after just one film, that United Artists offered the Scottish actor an unprecedented fee of US$1.25 million, and also agreed to produce two subsequent films of Connery’s choosing if he’d pick up the Walther PPK one last time.