Blog Directory CineVerse: July 2010

When Hollywood rides the Windy City rails

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

by Erik J. Martin

(Note: This is part 1 of a 2-part article that will conclude next week.)

Ever wonder what’s involved in shooting a film a Chicago CTA train? Former transportation manager of CTA rail service Sidney Edwards can tell you.

For years, Edwards coordinated film and video shoots that took place on CTA cars, rails and platforms--telling a film crew where to go, what to do and when to do it. In fact, whenever Hollywood passed through a CTA turnstile in the seventies, eighties or nineties, Edwards came along for the ride.

Consider Edwards' celluloid CV since 1975, the year he first stepped in to supervise TV and movie shoots for the CTA: "Code of Silence;" "The Hunter;" "The Blues Brothers;" "Risky Business;" "Running Scared;" "Next of Kin;" "Planes, Trains and Automobiles;" "Above the Law;" "Midnight Run;" "Adventures in Babysitting;" "Blankman;" "Richie Rich;" "The Fugitive;" and “While You Were Sleeping.”

Edwards also logged a lot of TV memories--from his first production assignment, "The Million Dollar Ripoff," a TV pilot shot in 1975 starring Freddy Prince, to one of the most harrowing, an episode of the mid-'80s TV series "Lady Blue" in which a stunt person was hanging from the side of a running train.

The film "Next of Kin was really challenging, Edwards told me in a 1995 interview, "because you had a stunt man trying to jump from one train to another going in the opposite direction. The time and speed of the jump had to be calibrated exactly. That was real nerve racking."

Though the track record for injuries was unblemished during his term, Edwards and the CTA made sure a film or video production is covered with railroad protective insurance. (The third "live" rail, fed with 600 volts DC of electricity, is shut off during scenes afoot on the tracks, in case you were wondering.) In addition to providing proof of insurance, a film crew must pay for the chartering of their own train, and the cost of any onsite CTA supervisor's overtime.

Then, they're given a choice of a late night shoot or during Sunday--non-peak times--and a designated length of trackage to run on. A prime choice, Edwards said, are stations between Wellington and the Loop on the Brown line.

"When the action gets tough, I have to be out there on the track myself," Edwards told me, citing an action-packed chase scene in "Running Scared." "It requires a lot of extra time on my part. Sometimes I have to come in on my day off, at midnight or on a Sunday. Producers like to shoot during rush hour, but we don't allow that because they have a tendency to want to take over the entire station."

Next week: Part 2—Following the train of command


We had it all...just like Bogey and Bacall

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Like a dash of smoldering sensuality with your main course movie?

Join CineVerse on July 28 for "To Have and Have Not" (1944; 100 minutes), directed by Howard Hawks and starring Humphrey Bogart and a fetching young Lauren Bacall.


Down in the valley, all covered with green...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Oak Lawn Library will be showing the upcoming following film in its lower level meeting room (for more details visit

How Green Was My Valley (1941) -- Monday, July 26 at 10 a.m. -- At the turn of the 20th-century in a Welsh mining village, the Morgans raise coal-mining sons and hope that their youngest will find a better life. Starring Walter Pidgeon and Maureen O'Hara. Based on a novel by Richard Llewellyn. Rated: G. 118 min.


Orson Welles pulls from his bag of tricks

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Orson Welles did more than direct "Citizen Kane." While he found it hard to obtain the creative freedom and financing to make the kind of movies he wanted to after the 1940s, he did produce a few under-the-radar gems before his death in 1985.

One of them is "F is for Fake" (1973; 85 minutes), which is quite unlike any movie you've probably ever seen. Join CineVerse on July 21 to see what all the fuss is about.


The train is leaving "The Last Station"

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Oak Lawn Library will be showing the upcoming following film in its lower level meeting room (for more details visit

The Last Station (2009) -- Wednesday, July 21 at 2 p.m. -- This historical drama illustrates Russian author Leo Tolstoy's struggle to balance fame and wealth with his commitment to a life devoid of material things. Starring Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren. Based on a novel by Jay Parini. Rated: R . 112 min.


The Fever still a campy kinda way

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

by Erik J. Martin

In 1977, chances are you were paying big bills at the gas pump, wearing wide collars and polyester, and dancing to the Bee Gees.

One of the defining films of that generation and the ultimate statement of the disco era, "Saturday Night Fever" is still stayin' alive after nearly 23 years. In the two-plus decades since, we've witnessed the rapid rise and fall of punk, new wave, club dance, grunge, hip hop, and the film's star, John Travolta himself.

Is it still possible to channel your inner disco and appreciate this pop culture artifact from the late seventies, or should it have been buried and forgotten long ago? Let's explore the evidence.

Weak on plot, but long on grooves and discotheque moves, "Fever"--based on a story published in New York Magazine by Nik Cohn--tells the tale of a young Brooklynite struggling for an identity independent of his dysfunctional Italian family and dead-end bound hoodlum friends. Travolta's only talents--and his only chance of winning the girl of his dreams--lie on the dance floor, where he outshines all else with his improvised moves and flashy white suit. With legs spread apart, one hand on his hip and the other pointing its index finger back-and-forth between his upper right and lower left, Travolta created a nationwide dance move sensation that is still imitated (in an irreverent manner of course) to this day.

The performance earned Travolta his first best actor Oscar nomination. "Fever" also spawned a virtual cottage industry of urban discos that popped up around the country, including the infamous Studio 54 club that quickly became the hottest niteclub in the Big Apple. The soundtrack, meanwhile, featuring such disco hits as "More Than a Woman," "Disco Inferno," "How Deep is Your Love," and the title track, went on to become the biggest selling motion picture soundtrack in history.

And in the late 1970s, the film made the top 10 box office champs list. The R-rated movie was so popular, in fact, that a PG version was released a year later, keeping "Fever" in the theaters for a seemingly endless run and introducing it to a younger generation.

A sorry excuse for a sequel, "Staying Alive," starring Travolta and directed by Sylvester Stallone, was released in 1983, but earned at best a lukewarm reception from audiences. By this time, after all, disco was as dead as a Dodo bird. Several years later, however, the music and the fashion made a campy nostalgic revival in the nineties, when disco was to that decade what the grease and 50s rock n' roll renaissance was to the 1970s, and what the psychedelic 1960s resurgence was to the eighties.

I guess that means we're in for a wave of 1990s nostalgia in this new decade. Brace yourselves for a comeback by Nirvana, Julia Roberts and Macarana, I expect.) In the immortal words of Gloria Gaynor, "I will survive"--indeed.


"Vertigo" for virgin ears

Sunday, July 11, 2010

If you enjoyed our exploration of "Psycho" and Alfred Hitchcock last week, you may also appreciate our in-depth discussion of one of the master of suspense's all-time great pictures, "Vertigo," which our film group examined two years ago.

To hear the recorded podcast, click here.


Billy Wilder deals you an Ace

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Kirk Douglas shines with sinister zeal in "Ace in the Hole" (aka "The Big Carnival"), Billy Wilder's 1951 study in cynicism. That's our film on the docket for July 14.

For the full scoop on "Ace in the Hole," click here.


Take a bite of "Fried Green Tomatoes"

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Oak Lawn Library will be showing the upcoming following film in its lower level meeting room (for more details visit

Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) -- Wednesday, July 14 at 10 am. -- A housewife who is unhappy with her life befriends an older lady in a nursing home and is enthralled by the tales she tells of people she used to know. Starring Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker. Based on a novel by Fannie Flagg. Rated: PG-13. 130 min.


Sci-fi for the summer poll

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

We’re off to a late start, but we have a new CineVerse poll for July. This time around, CineVerse asks the question: “What is the greatest science-fiction film of all time?” You have 25 picks to select from, so get to it! Cast your vote by participating in the poll found on the left sidebar of our homepage (vote closes on July 31).

And in case you were curious as to the results of last month’s poll, which asked the question “What is the greatest summer popcorn movie of the last 30 years,” the winner, by a landslide, was “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with 53% of the vote, followed by: “E.T.” (20%); “Terminator 2” (13%); and “Forest Gump” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” (each with 6%).


Celebrate Norman Bates' 50th birthday

Saturday, July 3, 2010

You are cordially invited to celebrate the 50th birthday of Alfred Hitchcock's celebrated cinematic masterpiece of suspense, "Psycho," on July 7. That's the date we'll also be celebrating our film group's 5th anniversary. Make plans to join us for a frightfully fun evening.

Want to learn more about Psycho? Click here.


Take a trip through "Time"

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Oak Lawn Library will be showing the upcoming following film in its lower level meeting room (for more details visit

Somewhere in Time (1980) -- Tuesday, July 6 at 10 a.m. -- A Chicago playwright uses self-hypnosis to time travel to meet an actress whose vintage portrait hangs in a grand hotel. Starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. Based on a novel by Richard Matheson. Rated: PG. 103 min.


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