‘Maddman’ Succumbs To The Cult Of Personality Of Steve Madden [DOC NYC Review]

The name Steve Madden is an interesting one. For those who came of age in the ‘90s, Madden’s shoes, with their ridiculous, disproportionate advertisements, their high-fashion style, and their affordable cost were defining and, pretty quickly, ubiquitous. But, in the last two decades, the shoe mogul has been most associated with Wall Street and his notorious transgression: Early in his company’s growth, Madden hitched his wagon to Jordan Belfort — of “Wolf Of Wall Street” fame — and became embroiled in an insider trading scheme. In 2004 Madden was charged, convicted and sent to prison. But, as the new documentary “Madden: The Steve Madden Story” makes clear early on, people don’t exactly know who Madden is, even though he’s the mastermind behind one of the most successful shoe companies in history. It’s exactly what Ben Patterson’s film sets out to correct.

Madden’s story is undeniably ripe for the telling. Born in Queens, Madden grew up a notorious troublemaker. He was, he says in the film, undiagnosed with ADHD and his wild, manic energy was impossible to reign in. After dropping out of college, he began to self-medicate. It was, by all accounts, a rambunctious time for Madden and his friends, at once shaded by addiction, but colored by the relatively glamours way Patterson presents the era. The stories, mostly, are recounted by a laugh and an equivocation about how wild everyone used to be. Though, Madden himself is refreshingly candid about his errs — never though is there mention of anyone who might have suffered during such a tumultuous period, as is so often the case for those stuck in the orbit of an addict.

Soon, though, Madden was clean and working in a shoe store, learning everything about the craft, from designing to cobbling to selling. And once his skills matched his ambitions, Madden jumped ship with just over a thousand dollars and began cobbling shoes and selling them from the trunk of his car. Things then happened quickly. Madden managed to get his finger on the pulse of the market, found an untapped consumer base, and build a formidable company that has since become a billion-dollar empire. His model was genius — he could design a shoe and begin selling it in his Manhattan store on the same day to see if it proved popular before ever deciding to mass produce it. But it was all of his unorthodox business style — his outsider position in the market, his give-no-fucks attitude, his demand for more — that led him to Stratton Oakmont and Belfort in the ‘90s and to his eventual downfall.

At the heart of ‘Maddman,’ and what makes it work in the enjoyable way that it does, is Steve Madden. He doesn’t seem interested in pulling any punches. His candor is refreshing and his magnetism irrefutable. It’s easy to see why the same people that helped him start his company are the same ones that still surround him today — even after a relapse into addiction and a prison sentence. What’s less refreshing, though, is ‘Maddman’ itself and the inescapable sense that the movie is some sort of puff piece. Not only does the film start with the obvious (though unstated) aim to profile the real Steve Madden, but the rest of the picture is built entirely from perspectives of those directly involved with Madden’s company. It’s endearing to see that Madden has hired his childhood friends, his doorman and his former prison cellmates (as a part of an ambitious and admittedly well-intentioned program to aid those recently released from prison), but held together they make up the cult of Steve. They are people who owe something to Steve, and whether or not they truly do love and admire him (and it seems that they all really do), there is the unavoidable fact that they are indebted to him somehow.

As the film unfolds, it becomes impossible to ignore the lack of dissenting voices, the lack of perspectives from outside his inner circle. Certainly, Madden and those close to him are willing to condemn his demanding, work-centric lifestyle and his struggles with addiction, but it’s all treated as a few minor speed bumps along the road to redemption and success. And, admittedly, Madden is an indomitable figure who is hard to dislike. But that’s what makes it all the more unfortunate, that we couldn’t be shown a rounded, fair picture that would still leave us rooting for him in the end.

For all these conceptual missteps, Patterson’s film is lean (it clocks in at just 77 minutes), well-paced, and mostly engaging throughout. And Madden is hard not to like: a passionate, rabble-rousing outsider, who, through his own redemption, has become an advocate of redemption for others. It’s just a shame that ‘Maddman’ couldn’t transcend the cult of personality to truly capture the sort of man who attracts such affection. [C+]

Jeffrey Tambor Quits ‘Transparent’

Following mounting accusations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, Emmy-winning actor Jeffrey Tambor has decided to exit the Amazon show “Transparent.” Tambor starred on the critically-acclaimed show playing Maura Pfefferman, the trans matriarch of the Pfefferman family that included members played by Gaby Hoffmann, Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker, Judith Light, and extended players like Kathryn Hahn.

READ MORE: ‘Transparent’ Writers Considering Season 5 Without Jeffrey Tambor Following Sexual Harassment Allegations

“Playing Maura Pfefferman on ‘Transparent’ has been one of the greatest privileges and creative experiences of my life, Tambor told Deadline today. “What has become clear over the past weeks, however, is that this is no longer the job I signed up for four years ago.”

Just a few days ago, Tambor‘s former assistant Van Barnes accused him of making lewd comments, groping her and threatening to sue her if she spoke up. The actor strenuously denied the claims. On November 16, transgender ‘Transparent’ semi-regular Trace Lysette alleged that the actor made lewd, sexual and unwelcomed remarks while they worked together. Lysette also claimed that Tambor became “physical” and recommended that Amazon and series creator Jill Soloway “remove the problem and let the show go on.”

“I’ve already made clear my deep regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being aggressive, but the idea that I would deliberately harass anyone is simply and utterly untrue,” Tambor added in his exit interview. “Given the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set, I don’t see how I can return to ‘Transparent.’”

The actor did, however, acknowledge some bad behavior on set, but never of a sexual, physical or harassing nature. “I know I haven’t always been the easiest person to work with,” he said. “I can be volatile and ill-tempered, and too often I express my opinions harshly and without tact. But I have never been a predator – ever.”

Following the accusations, “Transparent” writers and Jill Soloway were considering writing Tambor’s Maura character out of the show, but it appears that the actor has made that decision for everyone (though some legal and contract issues likely need to be resolved before it’s 100% official).

“Transparent” came out of the gate as a critical darling when it premiered in 2014, winning two Golden Globe awards for the first season of the series—Best Musical or Comedy TV series and Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for Tambor—and Tambor world also go on to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. The fourth season of “Transparent” premiered September 22, 2017 and the fifth season, while renewed, will obviously require a serious rethink now.

The Essentials: Best Horror Movies Of The 1960s

Before 1960, horror movies were, shall we say, a little more prudent and followed, more or less, conventional narrative structures and genre tropes that never crossed the line into the full-on taboo. The ’60s was the decade when ratings boards were put into precarious positions by rebel filmmakers and were pressured to condemn or even ban films that were being deemed by advocate groups as “morally wrong.” The decade in cinema might have not been as groundbreaking and envelope-pushing had it not started with a bang.

1960 saw the release of “Psycho” and “Peeping Tom,” two groundbreaking movies that, needless to say, shocked mainstream audiences. These two taboo-breaking movies were met with inauspicious reactions, and one of them, “Peeping Tom,” was banned in its native country and destroyed the career of one of the great directors of all-time, Michael Powell. As for “Psycho,” the studio had so little faith in the picture, Hitchcock was left to finance it, and traded in his director’s fee for a 60% stake in the picture. It was a costly mistake for Paramount. The film was a hit, and also pushed boundaries, not just with its unprecedented depiction of violence (cue the famous shower scene), but sexuality as well, opening with a man and woman sharing the same bed (gasp). Powell and Hitchcock paved the way for open-mindedness and the rest is, as we say, history, as the domino effect both “Peeping Tom” and “Psycho” had on filmmakers wasn’t left unnoticed.

READ MORE: The 50 Best Horror Movies Of The 21st Century So Far

The ratings board had a stack of cases to deal with the rest of the decade, including “Eyes Without a Face” which had a sadistic doctor kidnapping a girl and removing her face to help his disfigured friends and “Black Sunday,” about the bloodbath a witch concocts to possess the body of a lookalike, was full-on banned in the U.K. and censored in the U.S, By then, real-life “serial killers” were emerging from the shadows and into mainstream news, and filmmakers were using these everyday horrors to tell their own inspired tales on-screen. Suffice to say, the floodgates would bust wide open the following decade with full-on shock horror such as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “I Spit on Your Grave,” and “The Last House on the Left,” but the 1960s set the stage.

READ MORE: The 25 Best Foreign Language Horror Movies Ever

For more, don’t forget our lists of the Best Horror Movies of the 1970s,1980s, and 1990s.

Dracula- Prince of Darkness Christopher Lee“Dracula: Prince of Darkness

Christopher Lee’s second time as Bram Stoker’s beloved vampire also proves his best (Lee is on fine form, avoiding the boredom of his later performances, having nicely carved the character for himself after one film). Director Terence Fisher brings a humanity out of Lee, their best work together besides “The Curse of Frankenstein.”Silent, but stern (Lee claims he refused to read any lines in the script), Dracula is as imposing as the film is daunting. Barbara Shelley, red haired and ready, gives the film a sensuality, rarely seen again in post Hammer films. Where later Hammer films entered into the territory of pastiche, here there is a genuine sense of threat when the local tourists ignore a warning not to enter Karlsbrad for fear of vampiric reprisal. Cinematographer Michael Reed has a good eye for colours (the reds and blues in the film are very striking), giving him a palette to bring to “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” the darling of the James Bond series. The film ends on an icy note (literally), giving an oddly sombre close to a franchise more concerned with whacking hearts than melting them. — Eoghan Lyng

READ MORE: The 15 Best Horror Films Of 2016

“The Haunting” (1963)

One of Martin Scorsese’s 11 scariest horror films of all time, Robert Wise’s “The Haunting” is widely considered to be a staple of the genre. Director Wise is better known for his musical adaptations “The Sound of Music” and “West Side Story,” but this darkly psychological adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House” showcases the director’s darker side. The film follows Dr. Markway and his three young companions Luke, Theodora, and Eleanor as they try to prove the existence of ghosts at the eerie Hill House. Things quickly turn terrifying when a malevolent spirit tortures the group, especially the sensitive Eleanor. This movie is a great example of innovative filmmaking, as Wise and cinematographer Davis Boulton made use of a warped camera lens to produce disorienting visuals. The script is also particularly innovative for its time, as it features a lesbian character (Theodora) and much of the plot hinges on her attraction to Eleanor. Censors forbade the characters from touching, but that didn’t keep this masterwork from making their romance more explicit than in the novel. For both its formal and social achievements, this film will always be one of the most memorable and invaluable contributions to come out of the 1960s. – Lena Wilson

“The Innocents” (1961)

Director Jack Clayton’s loose adaptation of Henry James’ novella “The Turn of the Screw,” “The Innocents” (1961) is not only one of the scariest films of the ‘60s but one of the scariest films ever made (again, just ask Scorsese who, like “The Haunting”, named it one of 11 scariest of all time). Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) has just accepted her first job as a governess for a niece and a nephew. Upon the nephew Miles’ (Martin Stephens) expulsion from boarding school and his return home, Miss Giddens begins seeing visions of a man and a woman, who may have died previously in the house, and now seem to be possessing the bodies of the niece and nephew. While indebted to James’ novella, the film probably owes more debt to Truman Capote’s scripting, which externalizes much of the horror from the novella, than anything else. While Clayton would never become a household name, his other notable film being the Robert Redford snoozefest “The Great Gatsby,” he directs here with a truly menacing gothic touch. The use of cinemascope for a horror film, and the blackout that begins the movie were truly original ideas at the time and add the overall eerie feeling present. “The Innocents’ is a truly stunning horror film that’s well worth tracking down. — Christian Gallichio

Rosemary's Baby“Rosemary’s Baby” (1968)

One of the rare horror films whose Wikipedia entry could start with, “ ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is an Academy Award-winning horror film,” Roman Polanski’s psychological occult horror film remains the benchmark for the “pregnancy horror” subgenre. The best horror plays to our basest fears as opposed to a quick, cheap jump scare, and the strength of “Rosemary’s Baby” comes from it’s all-too-real plausibility. Most of that can be chalked up to the performances, specifically Mia Farrow’s slow-burning manic performance as Rosemary Woodhouse, who becomes mysteriously pregnant after moving into a new apartment in New York with her husband (John Cassavetes) that is known to have strange occurrences. In addition to the claustrophobia that Polanski brings to Ira Levin’s novel, it’s aso easy to forget how darkly humorous the movie is. Most of which comes from Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer as their suspiciously involved neighbors, who are a little too interested in Rosemary starting a family. “Rosemary’s Baby” successfully captures the anxieties of taking the plunge into parenthood, yet also expertly weaves it into a story about paranoia, body horror, and satanism. It’s stature looms so large that any film that even remotely pays homage to it (most recently Alice Lowe’s “Prevenge” and Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!”) is immediately recognized as having a “Rosemary’s Baby” feel. – Ryan Oliver

“Night Of The Living Dead” (1968)

Zombie films and television programs may be all the rage in 2017, but very few have used the undead in as terrifying or thought-provoking ways as George A. Romero. And even fewer have remained relevant in terms of their themes. Like some of the other great horror films released in the late 60’s and early 70’s, “Night of the Living Dead” is a clear commentary about the Vietnam war, how the country was in a fractured state and this looming sense of gloom and doom permeated through everything. Perhaps an obvious metaphor with people being eaten alive by the undead, but regardless of subtlety or lack thereof, “Night of the Living Dead”remains an unflinching and brutally effective siege horror movie, one that holds up as a metaphor for the fractured state of our country, but also the troubling racial tensions that are still going on almost 50 years after the fact. The other, less dire legacy the film has left behind — something known from experience — is how chocolate syrup makes an excellent fake blood substitute if you’re shooting horror in black and white on a low budget. – RO

  • John W

    Great list.

  • hoarderking

    Haven’t seen quite a lot of these but they all sound good. One of my favourites from the 60s, however, is The Raven. I know it’s a black comedy but there are a few on your list that I wouldn’t class as Horror, either