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||| Joseph L. Mankiewicz |||
Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Mankiewicz directed 20 films in a 26-year period, and was very successful at every kind of film, from Shakespeare to western, drama to musical, epics to two-character pictures, and regardless of the genre, he was known as a witty dialogist, a master in the use of flashback and a talented actors' director.

The 1950 Oscar for Best Picture and Screenplay brought Mankiewicz wide recognition as a writer and a director, with his sardonic look at show business glamour and the empty lives behind it. This well orchestrated cast of brilliant and catty character actors is built around veteran actress Bette Davis and Anne Baxter as her understudy desperate for stardom.

One of Mankiewicz’ more intimate films, this highly regarded and major artistic achievement is a spirited romantic comedy set in England of the 1880’s about a widow who moves into a haunted seashore house and resists the attempts of a sea captain specter to scare her away. This is a pleasing and poignant romance that is equally satisfying as a good old ghost story.

Mankiewicz wrote and directed this witty dissection of matrimony that has three women review the ups and downs of their marriages (with all its romance, fears and foibles) after receiving a letter telling them that one of their husbands has been unfaithful. Once again Mankiewicz deftly utilizes the skills of a well-chosen ensemble, which includes a young Kirk Douglas at his dreamiest.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht


Fantastic Four

By JFAllaire

October 31st, 2003

What better way to start this new era then reviewing the screenplay for “Fantastic Four?” Dated February 22nd, 2002, the script is written by Doug Petrie; Since that draft, there have been rewrites by Tristan Patterson and Marc Frost. Currently penciled in as a Christmas 2004 release, yet without a director or stars, I don't believe they'll be able to make that date, as of this writing.

Reed Richards, his girlfriend Sue Storm, her brother Johnny and their friend Ben Grimm are known to the world as Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Girl, The Human Torch and The Thing, respectively. Together they form the Fantastic Four, a group of superheroes who are treated as rock stars and royalty by New York City residents. Becoming superheroes after their space shuttle was bombarded by particles waves, they use their power for the good of the city. This accident they were involved in also apparently killed the fifth member of the mission: Dr. Victor Von Doom.

Here’s the plot of the film adaptation: While local tabloids are desperate to get exclusive photos from their mysterious base of operations in The Baxter Building, Reed has been trying to find a cure for his friend The Thing. As they go about their days, however, strange little robotic bugs have been wrecking havoc in the team’s lives, trying to find their individual weaknesses. And, worst of all, Doom comes back into all their lives, claiming publicly that Reed had known all along of the impending disaster and wanted to test it on himself and his friends. The false accusation causes the team to split. This is all because Doom wants to get his hands on the particle waves in order to create an army of super humans for his country. At the end, of course, the team reunites to clobber Doom once and for all.

It isn't the best superhero origin film ever written; but it's definitely a decent screenplay. With “X-2: X-Men United” having washed away all the boredom of the original “X-Men” away, I have trouble remembering how an origin can be a little bit lame. Let's not talk about “Daredevil” and “The Hulk,” which are nowhere better than this script. The former had a great screenplay that was gutted by Fox, while the latter was one of the most bizarre superhero films ever made. I would rank this draft of the “Fantastic Four” as equal to “X-Men,” but a step below “Spider-Man.” There are certain moments in the story that will be less interesting to hardcore comic-book fans like me, but that are necessary for the normal moviegoer.

The action sequences are fun, but are not the full-scale blowouts that one would expect. Really, I'm not surprised. As one can tell from the recent rumors of Johnny Storm’s flame powers being limited to just coming from his fingertips, Fox doesn't look to be investing too much in this film. After the sub-par performance of “Daredevil” at the box-office, the studio won't burn that much of the production budget right from the start of what they hope will be a franchise, but instead nurture it. In this version of the script, the writer found the right mix of comedy, drama and action to make this draft an almost flawless blueprint.

Reed Richards is probably one of the most underwritten superheroes in history. He's the central character in this comic book adaptation, but he is overshadowed by the loud and obnoxious Thing, the Human Torch’s flamboyance and the royal malevolence of Doom. Yet, the screenwriter manages to beef up Richards’ role enough for the big screen. He gave real serious drama to Richards’ obsession of trying to cure The Thing, it was the driving point of the plot here. Dr. Doom even made it part of his villainous plan. The rest of the writing was perfect. We get the right dose of scientific and funny moments with Reed.

I love Petrie's rendition of Sue Storm. In the comic book series, she's the mother figure of the group, but I didn't find that to be really evident here in the screenplay. That's a definite breath of fresh air to the characters. She wants to got out dinner and shopping with Reed, nowhere does she want to stay home and knit. Petrie has really tailored that part for the 21st century. I especially loved one piece of dialogue, on why she loves Richards. As she says there, “The man who can mold his body into any shape and have it stay that way as long as he wants? Trust me: he's Mr. Fantastic.” Nice bit of innuendo there. Didn't Kevin Smith write about that in “Mallrats?” Can he stretch every part of his body?

Sample bit of Johnny Storm’s dialogue: “What kind of man are you?,” asks the boyfriend. “The kind your girlfriend likes,” responds Johnny. Long live Johnny's cockiness! We clearly see it in this script. It's exactly how I imagined it would be on the big screen. He's a kid given way too much powers way too quickly. Kind of like those rich basketball players who just graduated from high school. Johnny in certain moments is a first-class a**hole. Slowly through the story, though, he realizes there's more then the girls and glory to his role. I also love the 'legendary' bickering between him and The Thing. The writer has depicted that love/hate relationship to perfection. Those rumors about Human Torch becoming a cheap version of Pyro (from “X-2”) mentioned above have seriously troubled me. I hope they aren't true.

My favorite character in this screenplay is The Thing— He's written to precision. We witness his loneliness early on in the story. There's a splendid scene in which he's watching a baseball game in a bar. A girl comes over and they start chatting, we think she's genuinely interested in him. We discover she only came over to talk to him as a bet for her friends. It's one of the best scenes in the script. Another highlight of the story is The Thing's relationship with Alicia Masters, a blind artist. Their exchanges are just amusing and very nicely written. His action sequences are also right on the money.

If there's one word to describe Dr. Doom, and it's “creepy.” There's a moment in this script that totally freaked me out. He kills a little boy who comes to visit his castle. I'm sure Fox would have never allowed that scene to make it pass the cutting room floor. It was downright bloodcurdling.

I'm exceptionally curious to know why Fox had revisions made to this draft. Without a doubt, it would be the perfect screenplay to establish the Fantastic Four team to the moviegoing audience.

My rating: A

Jean-François Allaire, at 24 years old, has become a respected entertainment journalist, having contributed articles to Scr(i)pt Magazine and writing a monthly column in Screenwriters Monthly entitled 'The Last Word.' Hailing from Montreal, this young writer is determined to dig up all the details on the movies before they hit your local theater. We at are proud that Jean-François has made us his home.

Welcome to my new home here at I would like to thank Ed Havens and Chris Faile for inviting me to join their website, as I'm excited about this new chapter in my journalistic life. Every Thursday, I'll try to review one screenplay. I'm excited about this new chapter in my journalistic life. DEADPOOL is dead, but J-F Allaire lives. No more fanboyish intros or catchphrases in my column (other than today’s). It's a new phase in my writing.