Max Von Sydow dies at 90

Max Von Sydow in Never Say Never Again

Max Von Sydow, who played the good (Jesus Christ), the bad (Ernst Stavro Blofeld) and everything in-between, dies Sunday at 90, according to the BBC.

Obituaries noted Von Sydow’s 11 films with director Ingmar Bergman. One was The Seventh Seal where Von Sydow’s character plays chess with death.

He came to Hollywood. He played Christ in 1965’s The Greatest Story Ever Told, a big financial flop for United Artists. The supporting cast included actors such as David McCallum (as Judas), Donald Pleasance (as Satan, not long before playing Blofeld in You Only Live Twice), Telly Savalas (another future Blofeld), David Hedison and Martin Landau

Von Sydow often was called upon to play villains. Examples: Three Days of the Condor (1975), Flash Gordon (1980) and Never Say Never Again (1983) where he got his turn as Blofeld. The latter was not part of the Eon Productions series of James Bond films. It featured Sean Connery’s return to the role of Bond after 12 years.

The actor was the subject of tributes on social media.

“Max Von Sydow, such an iconic presence in cinema for seven decades, it seemed like he’d always be with us,” director Edgar Wright wrote on Twitter. “He changed the face of international film with Bergman, played Christ, fought the devil, pressed the HOT HAIL button & was Oscar nominated for a silent performance. A god.”

Actress Mia Farrow tweeted a photo of Von Sydow with cinematographer Sven Nykvist.

“Two great artists. Two true gentlemen,” she wrote. “I picture Max in heaven wearing his white linen suit, w Sven, Ingmar Bergman, Bibi Andersson, laughing & loving each other.”

Von Sydow’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 163 acting credits going back to 1949.

Writer Lorenzo Semple Jr. dies

Lorenzo Semple Jr. scripted the Batman pilot and 1966 feature movie

Lorenzo Semple Jr. scripted the Batman pilot and 1966 feature movie

Lorenzo Semple Jr., a writer best known for the 1960s Batman television show but who also did spy-related scripts including Never Say Never Again, has died at 91, according to an obituary in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Semple wrote the pilot for the 1966-68 Batman series as well as the quickly made 1966 feature film starring Adam West and Burt Ward. When executive producer William Dozier decided on a less-than-serious take, Semple devised a simple format for other writers to follow.

The opening of Part I would establish a menace. Batman and Robin would be summoned by Police Commissioner Gordon. The dynamic duo proceeded on the case, ending with a cliffhanger ending. Part II opened with a recap, the heroes escaped and eventually brought the villains to justice.

Among Semple’s memorable lines of dialogue: “What a terrible way to go-go,” and “Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”

Never Say Never Again's poster

Never Say Never Again’s poster

Semple always was drawn more than once to the spy genre. In the 1950s, he worked on drafts of a script based on Casino Royale, the first 007 novel, but nothing went before the cameras. Decades later, he was the sole credited writer on Never Say Never Again, a Thunderball remake not produced by Eon Productions but starring Sean Connery. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, writers brought in by de facto producer Connery, did uncredited rewrites.

Between Semple’s Bond work, he scripted films such as 1967’s Fathom with Raquel Welch (featuring a Maurice Binder-designed title sequence), 1974’s The Parallax View with Warren Beatty (a movie about a conspiracy to assassinate political candidates) and 1975’s Three Days of The Condor, a serious spy film with Robert Redford.

In The Hollywood Reporter’s obituary, Semple is quoted about the ups and downs of film production. Here’s a passage involving Never Say Never Again:

Semple met with Sean Connery in Marbella, Spain and sold him on his 70-page treatment for Never Say Never Again, which saw the aging actor return as 007 in the much-litigated Warner Bros. film based on Thunderball. But when some action scenes were cut as a cost-saving measure, the producers pacified an angry Connery by blaming — and then booting — Semple.

“I was quite relieved; I really didn’t want to go on with it,” he said. “I also agree a human sacrifice is required when a project goes wrong; it makes all the survivors feel very good.”

To read the entire obituary, CLICK HERE. There’s one mistake. It says Semple only wrote the first four episodes of Batman. He wrote or co-wrote 10 episodes during the first season, though he penned fewer in the final two seasons.

Movie producer Dino De Laurentiis, maker of the schlock and the serious, dies at 91

Movie producer Dino De Laurentiis, who boasted a body of work that emcompassed the schlocky and the serious, has died at 91. Here’s an excerpt of of the obituary on The New York Times’s Web site by Dave Kehr:

Mr. De Laurentiis’s career dated to prewar Italy, and he worked in a wide range of styles and genres. His long filmography has several important titles of the early Italian New Wave, including the international success “Bitter Rice” (1949), whose star, Silvana Mangano, became Mr. De Laurentiis’s first wife; two important films by Federico Fellini (“La Strada,” 1954, and “Nights of Cabiria,” 1957); and the film that many critics regard as David Lynch’s best work (“Blue Velvet,” 1986). But Mr. De Laurentiis never turned his nose up at unabashed popular entertainments like Sergio Corbucci’s “Goliath and the Vampires” (1961), Roger Vadim’s “Barbarella” (1968) and Richard Fleischer’s “Mandingo” (1975) — several of which hold up better today than some of Mr. De Laurentiis’s more respectable productions.

We note his passing here because given such a prolific career, he of course would have spy movies at some point. One of them, 1966’s Kiss The Girls and Make Them Die, is of interest to Bond fans. Not only was it one of the many movies produced to cash in on 1960s spy popularity, it seems to have a lot elements in common with the 1979 007 film Moonraker. There’s even been speculation it was “inspiration” for Moonraker. At the very least, the film seemed to make better use of its Brazilian locations than the later Bond movie. Here’s the start of the film, which starred Mike Connors a year before he began Mannix:

Nine years later, De Laurentiis “presented” (but didn’t have an actual producer credit) Three Days of the Condor, a much more serious, darker film starring Robert Redford that reflected the jaded post-Watergate 1970s.