William Peter Blatty dies at 89

Poster for 1967's Gunn

Poster for 1967’s Gunn

William Peter Blatty, best known as author and screenwriter of The Exorcist, has died at 89, according to an obituary by The Hollywood Reporter.

Blatty’s death was disclosed by Exorcist director William Friedkin on Twitter.

Blatty won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay for The Exorcist. Prior to the 1971 novel and 1973 movie, Blatty was a collaborator with director Blake Edwards.

The two scripted 1964’s A Shot in the Dark, arguably the funniest of Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau films, and 1967’s Gunn, a movie adaptation of the Peter Gunn series created by Edwards.

For the latter, Edwards and Blatty took the premise of the first Peter Gunn episode (a gangster who’s a friend of Gunn’s is murdered) and expanded it. One of the movie’s inside jokes was having composer Henry Manchini playing a piano at a bordello. The movie retained Craig Stevens as Peter Gunn while recasting supporting roles.

Here’s Friedkin’s post on Twitter:

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Author Stephen King also wrote a tribute:

 

Two non-007 homages in Skyfall

Dude (Dean Martin) survives his moment of crisis in Rio Bravo

SPOILERS lie ahead if you haven’t seen Skyfall.

007 fans are comparing notes about Skyfall’s homages to past Bond movies. What’s not getting as much attention are homages to non-Bond films in the 23rd 007 entry.

First, there are Daniel Kleinman’s main titles include Daniel Craig’s James Bond shooting at mirrors. This appears to be an homage to Orson Welles and his 1948 film, The Lady From Shanghai. The movie wasn’t a commercial hit but gained attention over the years as noted in an article on TCM.COM. An excerpt:

Film critic Pauline Kael once pointed out that Welles’s contribution to the evolution of film language lay in his dramatizing the techniques of cinema. That is obvious in every frame of The Lady from Shanghai. Jump cuts in the editing, the almost Brechtian distancing effect of the stylized performances, the doubling of the film frame in the Chinese theater scene, the deep focus that disorients by giving far backgrounds equal weight with extreme close-ups, the use of optical devices ranging from water tumblers to windshields to (in the film’s most famous set pieces) aquarium glass and multiple mirrors – all of these serve to forefront the experience of watching cinema and to push the envelope of what is expected and permissible on screen. (emphasis added)

Mirrors have figured into set pieces in movies such as Blake Edwards’ Gunn (1967), Enter the Dragon (1973) and, appropriately enough, The Man With the Golden Gun (1974).

The other homage, intentional or not, is Howard Hawks’ 1959 Western, Rio Bravo. One of its main characters is Dude (Dean Martin), who has substance abuse problems (he’s an alcoholic) and has trouble shooting straight until, in a moment of crisis, it all comes together for him. There’s also a scene where an attractive woman (Angie Dickinson) shaves him with a straight razor.

In Skyfall, of course, Daniel Craig’s 007 has substance abuse problems (he’s been hitting the sauce pretty heavily while presumed dead), can’t shoot straight (he records sub-standard scores on the MI6 shooting range) and gets shaved by fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris). Like Dude, Craig’s Bond gets it together when he’s needed the most and is suddenly a crack shot.

Ironically, both Welles and Hawks have 007 ties. Welles was part of the cast in the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale. Hawks in 1962 briefly considered directing a movie adaptation of Casino Royale until he saw an early print of Dr. No.

Salute to Maurice Binder’s non-007 work

The late Maurice Binder is closely associated with the world of James Bond, starting with his gunbarrel logo that began Dr. No to the main titles of 14 007 movies. But Binder did many creative main titles for other films that ought not be overlooked.

Binder did some interesting collaborations with composer Henry Mancini. For example, there was 1963’s Charade:

A few years later, producer-director Stanley Donen again tapped Binder and Mancini for Arabesque:

Finally, there was The Tamarind Seed, one of the few movies directed by Blake Edwards that didn’t have a score by Mancini. Instead, John Barry was hired, with Binder doing the main titles. By coincidence, a number of 007 alumni (director of photography Freddie Young and art director Harry Pottle) also worked on the movie. It began like this:

A Peter Gunn influenced by Maurice Binder?

In 1967, Peter Gunn got the big-screen treatment. Gunn came out six years after the 1958-61 series ended. Craig Stevens even reprised the role, even though all the supporting characters were recast.

Being a movie meant a longer version of the famous Peter Gunn Theme by Henry Mancini. But the main titles may have also been influenced by the main titles that Maurice Binder was doing for the James Bond movies that included a combination of images of women and animation.

Take a look for yourself.

UPDATE: Richard Kuhn, the title designer of Gunn, also did the titles of a 1966 movie based on a television show: