Born in Brooklyn on this day, Richard Fleischer (1916-2006) could be called a journeyman director in the most literal sense of the term. His nearly 50 years of filmmaking activity touched upon a full spectrum of genres from film noir to true-crime procedurals, science fiction and fantasy to historical spectaculars, war stories to Westerns, with a particular fondness for action and suspense. With 40 movies involving collaborations with top writing and acting talents to his credit, there is room on his resumé for hits (The Narrow Margin, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Vikings, Fantastic Voyage, Soylent Green) and lesser-known but marvelously entertaining works (The Happy Time, The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, Compulsion, The Boston Strangler, The New Centurions) whose reputations have grown since their original theatrical runs. His two Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray titles offer a view of a veteran craftsmen that can shape potentially unwieldy material with fascinating results: the magnum-impact Violent Saturday (1955), a gorgeously-shot Cinemascope heist thriller that uncovers the dark secrets of the residents of a dusty Arizona town as the badmen plot and execute a brazen daylight bank job, and Che! (1969), a kaleidoscopic biopic – with a documentary feel – of revolutionary leader Che Guevara that portrays his radicalization and partnership with Cuban rebel fighter Fidel Castro. The former has grown in estimation to become a sunlit-noir classic, the latter a curiosity that reveals the missteps of Hollywood hagiography in turbulent times, yet still fascinating to watch. More Fleischer-directed journeys are on tap for TT release in 2016.
Also born today, Vienna native Maxmilian Schell (1930-2014) also could be called a journeyman. Across 50 years, as film historian David Thomson writes in his New Biographical Dictionary of Film, “he was educated at the universities of Zurich and Madrid, and went on to careers as actor, stage director, screenwriter…and man of the world.” He’s very much a part of the Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray world in three films of distinction: his first Hollywood outing in The Young Lions (1958) as the unquestioning fellow German officer of Marlon Brando; his impassioned Oscar®-winning performance (which he first essayed in a Playhouse 90 TV production) as the defense attorney in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961); and his wily portrayal of a Vatican Cardinal mobilizing an elite SWAT team of undead slayers in John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998). Schell’s authoritative presence and underlying charm made him a welcome presence in many a movie, whether playing villains to hate or heroes to admire. Another remarkable Schell performance will come down the TT pike in Spring 2016, and you just might find it a welcome addition to your world.