Hey folks, Harry here... A very odd confluence of events occurred today. 1st Joel Schumacher died, then came news that Michael Keaton would return as BATMAN in the FLASHPOINT movie for DC.
I'm not really here to discuss the Keaton news. Personally, I'd be a 1000 times more excited to hear about Keaton playing Bruce Wayne in a BATMAN BEYOND movie, but then... I've yet to ever be completely satisfied with a BATMAN movie. Seriously, they've all been less than what I would love to see get made.
Never was I more vocal about my dislike of Batman on screen than with the two Schumacher BATMAN movies. In fact, the negative test screening reviews that came in from the early screening of BATMAN & ROBIN, helped build a following to this site - and when I wrote my BATMAN & ROBIN review - it had come after months of hearing how awful the film was. And even after the Mighty Joe Hallenbeck's castration of the film, I was in no way prepared for how bloody awful BATMAN & ROBIN was.
Part of the reason I was so blindsided is that I actually liked Joel Schumacher, filmmaker. For me, it began with THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING WOMAN, I grew up with parents that filled my noodle with Sci-Fi and Horror films, and that movie not only had Lily Tomlin shrinking, but also had a man in a gorilla suit playing a real gorilla - and that's a whole subset of awesome genre movies that I love. It is an absolute jewel of a comedy/sci-fi flick and given I was 9 when I saw it, I just liked it.
After that was D.C. CAB which had MR. T in it and if you were alive in 1983 and a cool kid that loved ROCKY movies and watched REAL PEOPLE on TV, you knew about Mr. T and CLUBBER LANG, so when D.C. CAB came out, I had to see it. In fact, that's where I first discovered Bill Maher and Paul Rodriguez. I didn't love the film like I did THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING WOMAN.
Then Schumacher made ST. ELMO'S FIRE in 1985, for me, I was 13 and the cast and the film hit me just right. The song that went with the film I learned to play on Tenor Saxophone via sheet music I bought. Yeah, I played the Tenor Saxophone in those days, but nothing prepared me for Joel's next film.
THE LOST BOYS - If Joel Schumacher has a pop masterpiece, it is LOST BOYS. A film that I've watch an uncountable number of times. I drove the long road from the family ranch to Wichita Falls, Tx and the Sike Center Mall Theater where it played at least a half dozen times. I bought the soundtrack and listened to it all the time. The cast for that film was just note perfect... From the Coreys to Jason Patric and Kiefer Sutherland. To Dianne Wiest as a perfect Single Mother trying to do best by her boys, to Ed Herrmann as her suitor. The Frog Brothers! Chinese Noodles to Maggots and my exact physical opposite Man-God playing Tenor Saxophone.
I saw COUSINS in 1989... but I couldn't recall a thing about it, I should check it out, it's available on Amazon Prime. Same goes with DYING YOUNG 1991.
In-between those came Joel's FLATLINERS which I actually quite liked. In fact, it is far better than the remake that came out a while back. Joel's cast for that was outstanding. You could watch that cast in anything, and the weird 'near death' experiences reminded me of the Douglas Trumbull's BRAINSTROM - which was superior, but not nearly as charismatic a film.
Before Joel first directed BATMAN FOREVER, he had two more features... FALLING DOWN with Michael Douglas and THE CLIENT with Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. The combination of these two films - their combined subjects made me feel that Joel Schumacher was the perfect director to take over from Tim Burton. Douglas' man fed up with the world and taking issues into his own hands... and a film about a Boy that witnesses a horrible crime and uses the Justice system to take out a Mob family... Man, that's a prerequisite for BATMAN if you ever saw one. Seriously.
Then... He went HIGH CAMP with BATMAN. It was the opposite of what I saw his career trajectory going. The exact opposite of what I wanted BATMAN to do. The big blow up over BATMAN & ROBIN happened - It played like a betrayal. Burton's BATMAN fight choreography was never a fave, but I thought Joel would bring more gravitas to the BATMAN world, not revert back to the goofy D.C. CAB roots. I was angry because Burton gave us that created look of GOTHAM CITY through Anton Furst and Joel took it way over the top - more like a Vegas interpretation of GOTHAM CITY.
So when Joel reached out to me to do a screening of TIGERLAND, 3 years after BATMAN & ROBIN - and after his 8MM which was alright, though nowhere near the potential in Andrew Kevin Walker's script... I was hesitant. Joel told me on the phone that he wanted me to see TIGERLAND first. He was proud of the film.
TIGERLAND was an extraordinary return to form for Joel. He told me it was made for the catering budget on BATMAN & ROBIN - and that he never had an exec on set. He felt free. After the screening he asked me & my Dad to hang out with him at the FOUR SEASONS in Austin - and we had a 3-4 hour talk where... I got to understand Joel Schumacher. He wanted me to see him, and honestly... I was 100% on board.
He put his arm around my shoulders and talked to me, no more than 4-6 inches from my face. It was not at all social distancing. In person, I found Joel to be an incredibly soft spoken Gay man that loved to discuss his "Gay life" which he said I could never understand. He referred to himself as an Old Queen, and when I told him about my two gay Uncles that were his age, he really went deep into his history. He told me he left school early, he felt he would be killed for being Gay at that time. Other kids didn't understand, and Joel couldn't hide what he felt. He left home, began hitchhiking around the country, using his body to travel and explore his sexuality as an underage hitchhiker, till he made his way back to New York City where he entered the fashion scene and found himself in Andy Warhol's THE FACTORY. He found himself gravitating towards Costumes and Design in Warhol's FACTORY which led him to doing Costume Design for many films including wild work for Woody Allen's amazing SLEEPER (watch this!)
He told me that in my BATMAN & ROBIN review, when I compared BAD MOVIE MAKING to Heroin Addiction, that hit him square in the face - because he felt it was true. You surround yourself with people that feed your own delusions. Allowing you to fall deeper and deeper in denial. Joel had been a heroin addict and recognized those parallels in a way I never could have imagined. I used the metaphor, because my Uncle Jay - went into that world and just went real real ugly - and contracted HIV from needle sharing.
The details he shared about the madness in making BATMAN & ROBIN... how Studio execs pushed Toy Execs into the process of Costume & Vehicle designs they thought kids would love. But were terrible on screen. He took complete responsibility, but at the same time let me know what a 5 ring Circus it was. Everyone had their own crews around them, he'd give directions to assistants that would then commicate OR NOT - to the actors what he wanted and the film was just an out of control party.
Then he raved about what a find he had found with Colin Farrell. Raving about his phenomenal instincts as an actor & how he'd have a long and fruitful career. I think anyone that saw TIGERLAND, could see that. And certainly, Farrell has had an incredible career since then. I did another screening of Joel's PHONE BOOTH, which was another exceptional film of Joel's. Great script from Larry Cohen and reuniting him with Colin Farrell and Kiefer Sutherland. I feel this film is too oft forgotten - but was great.
Joel Schumacher should not be defined by his BATMAN films. I try to concentrate on the Joel films that kicked my ass. Joel spoke frankly about everything and he had an incredible urge to please people. As I wrote this, I put on THE LOST BOYS and it really is just a completely perfect film. But the film I feel a very strong urge to watch tonight is his adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. It premiered to an incredibly hostile BNAT audience... I remember enjoying it - and given the 16 years of Gerard Butler media saturation, I wonder how it'll play. It also featured one of Patrick Wilson's early performances. He intended to come to that BNAT screening, but he was terrified of that audience. He was right to stay away.
It is so bloody weird that on the day Joel dies, Michael Keaton enters into negotiations to be BATMAN in FLASHPOINT. Which means we currently have 3 BATMEN in the works. Which frankly is pretty cool. I wouldn't mind seeing Val & George & Bale in the mix too. Let the healing begin. I also find myself wanting to track down a TV movie he Production Designed back in 1974, the KILLER BEES movie. I found it on YouTube here:
Keep it cool,