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(July 2003)

Gale Anne Hurd
Let’s have a hand for Gale Anne Hurd. A producer with terrific taste in the kind of movies we like, but with some bad luck in the choice of husbands. Just look at this list of our favorites that she produced:

The Terminator (1984)
Aliens (1986)
Alien Nation (1988)
The Abyss (1989)
Tremors (1990)
Cast a Deadly Spell (1991)

Waterdance (1992)
No Escape (1994)
The Relic (1997)
Clockstoppers (2002)
The Hulk (2003)

Gale Anne HurdOf course she has produced a lot more than listed here, but these are the ones we really, really like. For The Terminator (in our mind still the best of the series) Ms Hurd also has a screenwriting credit. Aliens was James Cameron’s more than worthy follow up to Alien, Ridley Scott’s 1979 “haunted-house in outer-space” movie. James Cameron was Gale Anne’s first marriage, and her first marriage to one of her directors.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University, Gale Anne started her movie career at Roger Corman’s legendary New World Films. We sure owe a lot to Roger Corman. Other filmmakers who got their start with him include Peter Bogdanovich, Francis Coppola, Joe Dante, Jonathan Demme and Martin Scorsese. Quite an alumni, wouldn’t you say. At New World Gale Anne exhibited the creative talent and shrewd business skills that still serve her today.

By the time The Abyss was being made, Gale Anne’s marriage to James Cameron was coming apart. The scuttlebutt has it that the bickering dialog between Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio came right out of the Hurd/Cameron dissolving relationship. If so, it was great stuff. Normally we at The Toast don’t like “Director’s Cut” editions of successful movies; it’s our opinion that whatever forces created the successful movie are part and parcel of the film as we saw it in the theatre. And that is the successful movie we love. Whether is was insufficient funds, studio meddling or a necessity to trim running time so a film can turn-over more often in a movie house – whatever the forces were, they were there and that’s the movie we love.

The AbyssThat said, one of the few “Director’s Cut” that we do appreciate is James Cameron’s Special Edition of The Abyss. The scenes he added more richly define the relationship between the two protagonists and bring it to a near operatic level. Bud and Lindsey (Harris and Mastrantonio) are two driven people whose marriage is coming apart, but under the pressure of the abyss, their underlying deep love for each other comes to fore and we are rewarded with a deeply satisfying film. Sadly, James and Gale Anne's marriage didn’t have the same romantic ending.

In Tremors and Cast a Deadly Spell, Gale Anne had the good sense to cast that much under-appreciated actor Fred Ward. Tremors is a hilarious hoot of a monster movie and Cast a Deadly Spell is a made-for-television film of the hard-boiled detective genre mixed with hocus-pocus magic. Sadly it’s not yet available on DVD. About this time Gale Anne married her second director, Brian De Palma. They made a movie together that was so bad we won’t  mention it here.

Into the 21st Century, Gale Anne Hurd is still producing great stuff. Clockstoppers (2002) was an adolescent but fun time-manipulation movie akin to The Girl, The Gold Watch and Everything (1980) where a teenager finds a watch that stops time. The Hulk, currently playing in theatres, is breaking box-office records. Teaming Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) with Stan Lee (of Marvel Comics fame) was inspired! And coming later this month, Terminator 3; Arnold’s back again. We still think the first Terminator is the best and is a classic that will endure long after the sequels are forgotten. By the way, Gale Anne's third marriage was to a screenwriter. We hope she's happy. We only mentioned her private life because it has clearly affected her art. It contributed to the great success of The Abyss and to the miserable failure to that movie she made with Brian Di Palma.

The Absent-Minded ProfessorDisney
Long time CinemaToast readers know we have a special love for Disney stuff. We collect, on optical video, all Disney animation and all Disney live-action movies made before Walt died in 1966. A few years ago the current Disney corporation released The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) on laserdisc. It wasn’t a perfect release; the movie was shot slightly wider than the normal television aspect ration. For the laserdisc, Disney didn’t bother to letterbox it so some of the picture information on the edges was lost. However the laserdisc is, correctly, in “Glorious Black and White!” – and it says so right on the jacket.

Most studios have come around to reproducing movies on DVD as close as possible, in all aspects, to the original. In fact, many studios go to great lengths to restore classic films to their original pristine condition. So we had high hopes that when the Disney released The Absent-Minded Professor on DVD, they would letterbox it so the whole picture could be seen. Well, not only did they not letterbox it but they colorized this beautiful black and white movie. A sacrilege. With the growing knowledge and sophistication of the general public to movies and film history, we thought colorization had died. We guess not.

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