Friday, January 11, 2008

Camera Obscura - Dillinger in East TN; Death Race 3000; Every 'Cloverfield' Secret

East Tennessee helped filmmakers capture the legendary criminal exploits of John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd and the rise of Hoover's FBI, all recently featured in a History Channel documentary "Crime Wave: 18 Months of Mayhem", by Knoxville's Jupiter Entertainment and if you missed it last Sunday, you can watch it again this Saturday and Sunday. I thought the doc was excellent and yes, there are lots of Oliver Springs and other Knox-area locations (and lots of local actors) used as backdrops for the real events.

Jupiter Entertainment filmed for approximately 15 days in downtown Oliver Springs, a farm outside Oliver Springs, The Ritz Theater in Clinton, Joe Rainey’s dentist office in Clinton, outside the old Wartburg jail, and at other locations in Knoxville, Harriman and Townsend, members of the film crew told The Oak Ridger during the filming in November 2006.

The old Oliver Springs Banking Co. building substitutes for the Racine, Wis., bank that Dillinger robbed on Nov. 20, 1933. Nearby, the Sienknecht Antiques building, constructed in 1901, is the “boarding house” that caught fire while Dillinger and others were staying there. Local emergency personnel were the firefighters who saved Dillinger, not realizing who he was." (via the Oak Ridger)

The show's creators, using HD photography, did a fantastic job and got the facts right in the story - a story that gave both Dillinger and Hoover a national fame that still resonates today. I really urge you to watch the special on The History Channel (details on broadcast dates here).

One of my favorite movies about Dillinger was John Milius' version for Roger Corman's company, the simply titled "Dillinger" with Warren Oates giving a killer performance in the lead and Ben Johnson playing Melvin Purvis, the FBI agent Hoover put in charge to bringing Dillinger down. Milius' movie is stark and brutal and does follow pretty closely to the facts -- except for the way Purvis is portrayed. Johnson looks good as he dons his special gloves and jams a cigar in his mouth as he hefts his machine gun, but Purvis was much different in real life. (Ron has much affinity for Roger Corman and has been posting about the movies he likes.)

The truth, as the documentary reveals, is that Purvis was a skinny looking dude who botched numerous attempts to nab Dillinger and led to the deaths of many innocent people before he got lucky thanks to a woman who traded info on Dillinger for immunity for being an illegal immigrant.

The broadcast got my imagination humming, as I realized no one had really done the story justice over the years and given a more accurate script and some top name stars, could be a real hit. I even started making some notes and a script outline, thinking of pitching the story out West Coast way. I considered putting Brad Pitt in as Dillinger, maybe Emile Hirsch as Purvis and .... the idea all came crashing down as I read online Tuesday I was too late for this blockbuster.

Director Michael Mann ("Heat", "Miami Vice") is already in production on the movie, called "Public Enemies" with Johnny Depp as Dillinger and Christian Bale as Purvis. His movie is based on the recent non-fiction best-selling book by Bryan Burrough.

Fooey. Well, at least I know it was a good idea, since Mann thought it worthy of his next project and I'll bet it will be a huge hit. I bet he hits all the good points too, like how Hoover used Dillinger's crime spree to install the FBI as a national police force, how the press used him to boost sales, how the whole case almost destroyed Hoover's plan and how he was so jealous of Purvis' media fame he worked to destroy his career.

Maybe I could pitch a low-budget version with a less A-list lead actor to Roger Corman, or maybe to that company that came out with "Snakes on a Train" to cash in on the "Snakes On A Plane" flick. Hey David Keith!! Wanna play Dillinger???

Ah well.


Speaking of Corman, his drive-in classic "Death Race 2000" airs tonight at 2 a.m. on TCM's Underground series. Shot in about 17 days, the movie was a massive hit despite all it's cheapness. And the idea of scoring points for running down pedestrians somehow became a dark American joke.

The movie is currently getting a remake with writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson ("Resident Evil," "Alien vs Predator") in charge. Actor Jason Statham gets the lead role of Frankenstein, the brutal champion of the game. Lots of details and some photos of the new movie are here.


All hope of getting a good, new version of the Conan the Barbarian tales is lost. Lost, I tell you. Why? Because the company that just snagged the rights has put two god-awful writers in charge of the script.

These writers (Donnelly and Oppenehimer) wrote the script for "Sahara" based on Clive Cussler's book, and Cussler sued the production company for ruining his novel and their version of Ray Bradbury's classic short story "A Sound of Thunder". I'm sure their version of Conan will include robots and exploding chariots.


Thousands of readers have found this humble page seeking clues on the movie "Cloverfield" which opens next Friday. Produced by J.J. Abrams and written by Drew Goddard, the movie has been THE buzz on the internets for many months.

So if you cannot wait to see the movie, told via hand-held video as New York City is attacked by .... something really, really big, then here is the place to go - has all the "Colverfield" photos and the production notes on the movie that reveal every secret the movie has to offer.


  1. If I didn't know better, I'd swear you read my blog and picked up on the moderate Roger Corman obsession I've got going on lately. I know someone who is in the Death Race 2000 remake.

  2. cool beans, Ron.

    and since you mentioned your blog, i'll update this post with a link to it, by garsh.

    i know waaaay too much info about Corman's movies ... then again some of the best and brightest talents in Hollywood owe their start to Corman.

  3. “a Cameron Crowe movie meets ‘Godzilla’ meets ‘Blair Witch Project’”

    'k then, moving along. Next flick.

  4. LOL, joe.

    the only thing that interests me about the Cloverfield movie is a reliance on personal videos from characters to propel the narrative, but the whole "x meets y" pitch element makes me NOT want to see it.

    i think the better movie using this type of narrative will be coming from George Romero's upcoming "Diary of the Dead."

  5. Anonymous5:18 PM

    where's firesign when you need them? LRR

  6. Early word is Cloverfield is great, but I'll be damned if the idea of hand-held cameras doesn't immediately remind me of the queasiness festival that was Blair Witch. All that shaking gives me a wicked case of the barfs.