Review of The Making of The Lords of Flatbush by Stephen Verona
Rating ** 1/2
The film The Lords of Flatbush is noteworthy on a few accounts. It represents one of the first independent films to achieve a level of success. It was also the first film for two of its stars: Sylvester Stallone and Henry Winkler. So an inside look by the film's writer/director at how all this came to be is a story worth telling. The resulting book succeeds on some levels but disappoints on others.
The story told here by author Stephen Verona reads very much like a first draft. It is unfocused, disjointed, rambling, and comes off more than a bit acrimonious. Despite these flaws, there is some merit to what he has to say. The author would have been better suited had he taken the time to organize his thoughts and expand on them rather than throw together something that reads more like a series of unrelated blog postings.
Students of film will find glimpses of lessons learned, as in don't make the same mistakes that Stephen Verona makes. The author starts by talking about his background and growing up in Brooklyn and how the film is mostly autobiographical. He takes the reader from original idea to completed film, albeit via a circuitous route in which the reader is introduced to every individual the author has ever met in the past thirty years.
The book is filled with interesting insights about how films get made from the financing to the wheeling and dealing with agents, studio heads, and others. At the same time, the book is filled with unrelated stories that add nothing such as the description of the author's home in France and his Rolls Royce. Stephen Verona was a pioneer in music videos. He is someone with obvious creative skills. But he comes across as someone who has become obsessed with his perceived injustices related to royalties and subsidiary rights to his film. Had he spent as much time working on other projects as he has on studio audits and finger pointing he might have more feature films to his credit.
The stories related to the cast and the firing of Richard Gere make for interesting reading. I especially liked the story of how an in-prov by Richard Gere and Sylvester Stallone made it into the final picture. The book could have used more of those stories. Instead we go off on tangents with Clive Davis and other big names that the author drops like a second rate actor at a high school reunion.
Toward the end of the thin book (154 pages), an ulterior motive for writing the book reveals itself. In addition to an insiders look at an independent film and the actors that went on to bigger and better things, the book serves as a kind of proposal for a hoped for stage musical. It's a little like Sylvester Stalone making six Rocky movies. It intimates at desperation.
A review of a book like this would not be complete without having seen the film referenced in the book. As a companion piece to the book, the two complement each other well. The insights gleamed from the book made up for the lack of story in the film. It was interesting to watch Sylvester Stallone. You can see glimpses of Rocky. I was also impressed by Susan Blakely, who played the part of the new girl in town. Okay, I was infactuated. She stood out like a single flower poking up through a baren landscape. I was curious what she has done since this movie and was pleased to see that she has worked steadily, though in low profile fims.
If you're interested in the film or want to learn more about the less glitzy side of Hollywood, you will find this book of interest. Stephen Verona is obviously someone who has a lot of stories to tell. Consider this book an outline for a future memoir.