Classic Film : What classics did you see last week? (6/15-6/21)

What classics did you see last week? (6/15-6/21)

Please tell us what classics you saw last week. Modern films are welcome, as well.

If I die, I'm gonna die historic on the Fury Road.

1949, Hammer, Michael Mann, Pixar

Border Incident (Anthony Mann, 1949) - Ricardo Montelbahn stars as an undercover agent trying to discover the truth about an across-the-border slave trade in this noir-ish thriller. This is entertaining stuff, very beautifully shot, but I never got particularly involved with it. 7/10. yes.

The Hasty Heart (Vincent Sherman, 1949) - A diverse group of Allied soldiers recovering in Burma right after WWII try to comfort a man (Richard Todd) who's dying but doesn't know it in this gentle drama. Ronald Reagan plays the American and Patricia Neal the nurse caring for them. I find the fact that Todd is dying and his commanding officer informs everyone but him kind of icky, and in a lot of ways Todd is almost treated like a pet. His quaint, Scottish ways are the butt of most of the film's jokes (he gets it better than the African character, though). The film, as a whole, is pretty touching, though. This might be Reagan's best role. Todd was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his performance. 7/10. yes.

Here's to the Young Lady (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1949) - Gentle marriage comedy from Kinoshita. Shuji Sano is a 34 year old man, a successful businessman but pretty unsophisticated. His friend introduces him to a potential bride in Setsuko Hara. At first she seems perfect, but as their courtship continues, Sano discovers there are some catches: her family is broke, so marrying a rich man might solve their problems. Hara's father is in prison. Also, Hara was engaged to a man who died a year and a half ago. In her own words, she used all her love and affection up on him. At first I was a little disappointed in how it ended. It seemed a litle abrupt. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Overall, a pretty good little film. 7/10. yes.

Rasputin: The Mad Monk (Don Sharp, 1966) - Hammer does history. This is more or less a horror film about Rasputin, played by Christopher Lee. Lee is fun, but the film is a terrible bore. It only gets amusing near the end where everyone tries desperately to kill him and keeps failing. My experience is limited, but I've never been a Hammer fan in general. I particularly hate the look of their films, at least their color films. They look like cheap TV movies with the most garish colors. 4/10. no.

Blackhat (Michael Mann, 2015) - I forgot, Michael Mann sucks now. The worst thing that ever happened to him was discovering digital cameras. It's at least partially ruined his last three films, this, Public Enemies (where it REALLY didn't fit) and Miami Vice. The cinematography here is really ugly and the action sequences are so shaky it makes Paul Greengrass look like a tripod. Blackhat follows criminal hacker Thor (again played by Chris Hemsworth) as he is taken out of prison to track a deadly hacker (some Dutch guy?) along with a Chinese agent (Chen Dawai) who brings his hot sister (Chen Lien) with him so Thor has someone to bone. I kind of like the mood of the thing (which is aided by a good score), but the film is a bore. 5/10. no.

Inside Out (Pete Docter & Ronaldo Del Carmen, 2015) - Amazingly complex animated film that builds the inside of an 11 year-old girl's mind as a fantastical world of wonder. Five basic emotions, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust, live inside the mind of Riley and are in control of her attitude and memories. Joy (Amy Poehler) has done a good job of leading the emotions up to this point, but when Riley's parents drag her to San Francisco for her father's job, Sadness (Phyllis Smith) becomes more powerful, much to Joy's chagrin. The metaphors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen have created in this girl's mind are insanely clever. Very quickly you get a bit ahead of the film, understanding Riley's emotional responses and the inner workings of her mind before we see her, in real life, react. It actually gets so abstract at times I think I wouldn't recommend the film for younger children - it probably is meant more for children closer to Riley's age, and their parents (and adults in general) will probably get more out of it than any child will. There's a bit of a slapstick element, and, honestly, sometimes it feels a bit out of place. As one might expect, the animation is wonderful. The fantastical world is beautiful, but for me it was the characters who really stood out. Joy in particular is one of Pixar's all-time greatest characters, and she's perfectly performed by Poehler. This is definitely one of Pixar's best movies. 9/10. YES.

If I die, I'm gonna die historic on the Fury Road.

Re: 1949, Hammer, Michael Mann, Pixar

You are right: Joy is a fantastic character and Poehler plays her beautifully. The film is so creative and witty. I loved the joke about that commercial jingle. The kids in my audience seemed to like it but did bolt as soon as the credits began, not caring about the hilarious stuff happening over the end credits. Phyllis Smith also does a great job, as do Richard Kind and Lewis Black. I wish Disgust had been given more to do, maybe if there's a sequel where Riley hits puberty.

Re: 1949, Hammer, Michael Mann, Pixar

Yeah, I kind of wonder if they added the fifth emotion, Disgust, just to differentiate it a little more from Herman's Head (although those weren't emotions, as I recall, just parts of a personality). She didn't seem to have all that much to do. The very last gag, with the cat, was probably my favorite part of the whole movie.

If I die, I'm gonna die historic on the Fury Road.

Re: 1949, Hammer, Michael Mann, Pixar

The cat gag was hilarious! I was so annoyed with the people in my theatre...they all started walking out during those final gags and I had to keep craning my head to see them gags (keep in mind the exiting audience members were laughing at the gags...why not sit back down and enjoy them?).

There were a lot of very funny, witty scenes in the film.

For me, Disgust really isn't much of an emotion you can play with. I would say Frustration would rank higher as a more potent emotion (but I guess Anger covers that in a way). I think the Pixar folks worried about making the lead character too sarcastic--having her show too much Disgust. Seriously, apart from the running away, she was pretty mild...even when exploding at her father.

Plus, Disgust herself (Mindy Kaling) seems to want to be too helpful when Joy and Sadness are whooshed away from the scene.

However, this is a quibble. The film itself is a pure delight.

Everything's coming up Milhouse!

Re: 1949, Hammer, Michael Mann, Pixar

I was thinking Shame maybe, but perhaps that's too close to Sadness. Agreed, though, that any complaints are very minor.

If I die, I'm gonna die historic on the Fury Road.

Re: Hammer / Blackhat

I wouldn't say that I actively dislike the look of Hammer's colour films, however, their best stuff is their black and white output. Hysteria and These are the Damned are particularly superb looking films and a little less conventional (content-wise) than their Dracula and Frankenstein outings.

I'm still on the fence about whether or not to see Blackhat. The story sounds quite interesting, but the reviews so far have generally been lukewarm at best. Like you, I also detested the digital look of Public Enemies and I am cautious about subjecting myself to a similar experience again.

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

Re: Hammer / Blackhat

At least the subject matter of Blackhat kind of leads one to digital cinematography, unlike the 1930s-set Public Enemies. But there are several big action sequences and they are often incomprehensible.

The one Hammer film I've seen and liked is The Abominable Snowman. It is in black and white.

If I die, I'm gonna die historic on the Fury Road.

Leconte, Jimenez, Preminger, and Famuyiwa

Monsieur Hire 1989 (Patrice Leconte) - 10/10 - Yes

The Connection 2014 (Cedric Jimenez) - 7/10 - Yes

River of No Return 1954 (Otto Preminger) - 6.5/10 - Yes

Dope 2015 (Rick Famuyiwa) - 5./10 - No


"The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long But It Bends Toward Justice" MLKing, Jr.

Asian films and David Cronenberg

Pale Flower (Masahiro Shinoda, 1964)

A yakuza named Muraki is released from prison after serving a sentence for murder. He returns home and falls for a self-destructive woman, with a passion for gambling. Their relationship goes on as power shifts between the yakuza groups, until inevitably violence erupts. The film is about as bleak as they come, but it finds a certain beauty to everything it shows. The highlight in my opinion is towards the end, when music counters a violent act in a rather stunning way. 8/10

Death by Hanging (Nagisa Ôshima, 1968)

An extremely dark comedy about a young Korean man who is sentenced to death by hanging, only to survive the initial hanging and lose his memories. The staff at the prison tries to remind him of who he was, as the law says they can't execute a man who doesn't understand his crimes. The film is an examination of both the death penalty and the treatment of Koreans in Japan. It does get very preachy at times, but it's an interesting examination on the subject and often quite funny in a morbid way. 8/10

The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986)

I generally like Cronenberg's films, but for some reason I'd never seen one of his most famous ones. Well, I finally watched The Fly and I really wish I would have seen it earlier. It's really a marvelous film. Being quite dramatic, but with moments that made me cringe (Cronenberg's always been a master of “body horror” and I think this may beat Videodrome in terms of horrific scenes). It's well executed all around, with Goldblum pulling off a wonderful performance as a scientist and then as the “monster,” who, in classic Universal style, is the most sympathetic character. 9/10

Vital (Shinya Tsukamoto, 2004)

A very bizzare drama (as should be expected from Tsukamoto) about a man in a car accident who loses his memories. His parents convince him to go to medical school despite the fact that before the crash he was against it. When he gets to his first human dissection, he finds his memories coming back to him the more he cuts into the cadaver. It's a very strange movie, with a melancholy feel throughout. It's nowhere near the director's best work, but it's an interesting examination of how people react to loss. 6/10

The Taking of Tiger Mountain (Hark Tsui, 2014)

The film follows the Chinese army as they fight a group of bandits in the northeast mountain ranges during the Chinese revolution. Of the more recent Hark Tsui films I've seen this is easily the best. It's still flawed, with a fairly pointless modern day introduction that moves to the actual story (and a few way too over the top scenes), also some bad CGI, but for the most part it's an entertaining adventure story. A generous 7/10

My first time views this year (2015):

Blues Grant Mohawk Merry Warui Bible Witch Sweet Emma Girl Dreams

Birth Of The Blues (1941)

Set in the 1890s, a young man (Bing Crosby) has a jazz band but no one is interested in hiring him. No one wants to listen to "colored" music. But things start looking up when he adds a girl singer (Mary Martin) to his band. A tedious affair. The title is a misnomer. It's not about the birth of the blues, the blues had already been born. It's about a white band usurping black music and making it palatable to Caucasian audiences. The jazz infused songs aren't really blues anyway. We don't get the authentic blues until Ruby Elzy (who's black) sings St. Louis Woman. Even when Crosby sings Melancholy Baby he sings it as a lullaby rather than blues or jazz. Mary Martin is often lumped with other Broadway legends (like Ethel Merman and Carol Channing) as being "too big" for the movies but as evidenced by this film, she's a decent film actress. It's a screen presence that's lacking, she's just too bland. Directed by Victor Schertzinger. With Brian Donlevy, J. Carrol Naish, Eddie Rochester Anderson, Cecil Kellaway and Barbara Pepper.

Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949)

An incompetent secretary (Lucille Ball) is purposely hired for her lack of skills by a con artist (William Holden) who is using a real estate business as a front for his bookmaking syndicate. The idea being that she's too dumb to know what's really going on. It's a decision that he will soon regret. Hard to believe now that Lucille Ball was at one time a bigger movie star than William Holden was. The next year's Sunset Boulevard would soon change that. But at this stage of the game, while Holden hadn't yet reached his full potential, Ball's career was on the down swing. Curiously, this film shows the seeds of the comic persona that would soon become iconic in I Love Lucy. Her first scene shows her gift for physical comedy as she struggles with a typewriter ribbon, her character gets into hot water a lot and she ends the film impersonating a tough gun moll (her bitch slapping Holden is the funniest thing in the film). But the film itself is a throwaway. Something you can moderately enjoy while you're watching it and barely remember the month after. Directed by Lloyd Bacon. With James Gleason, Janis Carter, Frank McHugh and Roy Roberts.

Mohawk (1956)

A Boston artist (Scott Brady) is on commission from a Massachusetts society to paint landscapes of the as yet unsettled upper New York State where the Iroquois Indians reside. When his fiancee (Lori Nelson) arrives unannounced, she finds that he isn't ready to settle down ..... at least with her. This "B" western is bright and colorful and benefits from the lush Pathecolor cinematography of Oscar winning Karl Struss (Murnau's Sunrise) even though much of the film has a stage bound look to it. Directed by Kurt Neumann (The Fly), the film heavily borrows footage from the 1939 Drums Along The Mohawk to give it a more impressive (as in bigger budget look). In the end, it's your standard settlers vs. the Indians western (even though it takes place in New York state) but it's innocuous entertainment. With Rita Gam as the Indian maiden who steals Brady's heart, Neville Brand, Allison Hayes, Rhys Williams, Ted De Corsia, John Hoyt, Mae Clarke, John Hudson and Barbara Jo Allen.

Merry Andrew (1958)

A British school teacher (Danny Kaye) at a boys academy carries on the family tradition of academia but his heart is with archaeology. During a school break, he attempts to locate a statue left by Roman legions but he falls in with a circus playing at the site and falls for the pretty trapeze artist (Pier Angeli). Based on the short story by Paul Gallico, this is the only film directed by the great choreographer Michael Kidd (7 Brides For 7 Brothers). Unfortunately, this isn't one of Danny Kaye's best vehicles. It's not bad mind you but its attempt at a cheerful family musical just limps along. The songs, save one, are a destitute bunch courtesy of Johnny Mercer and Saul Chaplin. The one good number Salud benefits from Kidd's lively choreography. Other than that, Kaye doesn't get an opportunity to show his manic energetic comedic style, he's rather anemic. With Robert Coote, Noel Purcell, Patricia Cutts, Salvatore Baccaloni, Rex Evans and Tommy Rall.

Warui Yatsu Hodo Yoku Nemuru (aka The Bad Sleep Well) (1960)

A young man (Toshiro Mifune) develops an exacting plan to get revenge for the death of his father. This includes not only directly working for the man (Masayuki Mori) responsible and gaining his trust but marrying his daughter (Kyoko Kagawa). But even he is not fully aware of the enormity of the corporate evil he is dealing with. Akira Kurosawa was an admirer of Shakespeare and often used his plays as a take off point for his films. Throne Of Blood (MacBeth) and Ran (King Lear) come to mind and The Bad Sleep Well can't help but conjure up memories of hamlet. So it's quite apt to call The Bad Sleep Well a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. The film is meticulous and takes its time (it's a shade over 2 1/2 hours) telling the tale but the film works as a thriller too even if you're painfully aware no happy ending is forthcoming but still, you hope against hope. A great film. The entire cast is impeccable and includes Tatsuya Mihashi, Takashi Shimura and Kamatari Fujiwara.

The Bible: In The Beginning... (1966)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Then came Adam (Michael Parks) and Eve (Ulla Bergryd) and they begat Cain (Richard Harris) and Abel (Franco Nero) and ..... well, you know how it goes. John Huston's ambitious undertaking is notable for how he takes the bible stories literally and simply as if he were presenting familiar folk stories or fairy tales. He avoids the gaudy hoopla of the DeMille epics nor does he gives us a contemporary revisionist view like Aronofsky's recent Noah. The first half is the best especially the Noah (played by Huston, who also is the voice of God) sequence which has some magic to it. The second half suffers from the interminable and less interesting story of Abraham (George C. Scott) and includes the Sodom and Gomorrah section which comes across as rather silly, like a community theater production of Fellini Satyricon. It's a film, if so inclined that should please both believers and agnostics (can't vouch for the atheists). Giuseppe Rotunno is responsible for the film's luscious look and the Oscar nominated score is by Toshiro Mayuzumi. With Ava Gardner, Peter O'Toole, Stephen Boyd, Gabriele Ferzetti and Eleonora Rossi Drago and Zoe Sallis (whose union with the director produced actor/director Danny Huston).

The Witch Who Came From The Sea (1976)

A psychologically disturbed young woman (Millie Perkins, Diary Of Anne Frank), who was the victim of sexual abuse as a child, has trouble deciphering reality from fantasy. She is promiscuous but finds herself repelled by male sexuality. To this end, she castrates and slashes her sexual conquests to death with a razor. How long before the police catch up with her ..... or will they? Though clearly an exploitation film, its fascinating premise manages to edge it to cult status. Still, its graphic scenes of child sexual abuse are difficult to sit through though the graphic murder scenes are somewhat diluted by the unrealistic looking brown (sic) blood. The film is poorly directed by Matt Cimber (the notorious Pia Zadora flick Butterfly) from an interesting script by Robert Thom (Wild In The Streets). In better hands (like Brian De Palma), this could have been a real sleeper. As it stands now, it's an exploitation film with high ambitions, too high for its meager resources. With Vanessa Brown, Rick Jason, Lonny Chapman and Peggy Feury, who achieved her greatest fame within the industry as an acting teacher.

Sweet Bird Of Youth (1989)

An aging movie star (Elizabeth Taylor) takes up with a male gigolo (Mark Harmon) who brings her to the Louisiana gulf town where he hopes to reclaim the girl (Cheryl Paris) he loves. But not if the girl's father (Rip Torn) has anything to say about it. Based on the 1959 play by Tennessee Williams which was previously made into a film in 1962. Sweet Bird isn't one of Williams' great plays but even so, nothing prepared me for the bowdlerization and shambles that screenwriter Gavin Lambert (Inside Daisy Clover) has made of Williams' work. Lambert has added great chunks of unnecessary exposition and banal dialogue that only further weaken the material. As she proved in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer, Taylor is good at playing Williams but she's terrible here. It doesn't help that Lambert has botched her big scene, the telephone call where she finds out her comeback was a success rather than a failure. He's also softened Taylor's character, making her less of a vainglorious monster. The director Nicholas Roeg (Don't Look Now) isn't much help, was this a collect a paycheck job? The best performance comes from Valerie Perrine (Lenny) as Miss Lucy although the script eliminates her best scene, the fingers in the jewel box. With Ruta Lee, Seymour Cassel and Kevin Geer.

Emma (1996)

In early 19th century England, a well meaning if slightly snobbish young lady (Gwyneth Paltrow) of breeding fancies herself a matchmaker. When she attempts to secure a proper mate for her friend Harriet (Toni Collette), misunderstanding and unhappiness abound. Based on the 1815 novel by Jane Austen, director Doug McGrath's film (he also adapted Austen's novel for the screen) is utterly charming. McGrath manages to avoid the musty over respectful BBC Masterpiece Theater style which often mars film adaptations of classic novels. McGrath's touch is airy and light and in Paltrow, he has found the ideal actress to inhabit Austen's heroine. The film has warmth, it has wit and it has an excellent cast to support Paltrow. The one weak link may be Ewan McGregor who seems out of place though not problematically so. The Oscar winning score is by Rachel Portman (the first woman to win a best score Oscar). With Greta Scacchi, Alan Cumming, Jeremy Northam, Polly Walker, Juliet Stevenson, Sophie Thompson and Kathleen Byron.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

Set in Iran, a young man (Arash Marandi) must deal with his embittered widowed father (Marshall Manesh) who is also a drug addict in debt to his dealer (Dominic Rains). But one night he meets a mysterious girl (Sheila Vand) who walks the streets at night and his attraction to her will challenge his loyalties. The feature film debut of English born Ana Lily Amirpour is a mesmerizing curiosity. Set in a desolate Iranian city and spoken in Farsi, it was actually filmed in Southern California. The razor sharp B&W cinematography (beautifully shot and lit by Lyle Vincent) gives the film an eerie isolated atmosphere and atmosphere is really what the film is all about. Dialogue is at a minimum and the narrative while unusual (vampires in Iran?) seems merely a hook to which Amirpour can spin her dark romantic web ... which she does beautifully. I can't wait to see what she does next. With Mozhan Marno, Rome Shadanloo, Milad Eghbali and Masuka the cat who is as important a character as the human cast.

I'll See You In My Dreams (2015)

A retired widow (Blythe Danner) finds herself at a crossroad. There's something absent from her life that she can't quite put her finger on. But the death of her 14 year old dog and an unusual relationship with her pool man (Martin Starr) starts her off on her journey. In the 1970s, Blythe Danner seemed on the verge of becoming a major star. Why it didn't happen is a mystery. She had the looks, the talent and the charm. Today, it seems most people think of her as Gwyneth Paltrow's mom or the mother in the Fockers movies. I only bring it up because her performance in I'll See You In My Dreams shows a superior talent on display and in a meaty role that allows her to show her stuff and what we've been missing. Except for one condescending "cutesy" scene (her bridge club gets stoned on pot), the film manages to show a realistic and unsentimental view of aging with both pathos and humor. It's a lovely film that I hope doesn't get relegated to the geriatric ("it's a movie about old people for old people") film heap. Danner's karaoke rendition of Cry Me A River is one of my personal movie highlights of 2015 so far. Co-written and directed by Brett Haley. With Sam Elliott (proving age doesn't dim sex appeal), Mary Kay Place, Rhea Perlman, Malin Akerman and June Squibb (Nebraska).

In ancient Egypt, cats were worshipped as gods. They have never forgotten this

Re: Blues Grant Mohawk Merry Warui Bible Witch Sweet Emma Girl Dreams

Great reviews. I've only seen a couple of these films.

The Bible: I think the details of Sodom and Gomorrah are best left to our imagination. Debauchery - even Godless Debauchery so bad that God destroys everyone never comes off -on onscreen - as evil and shocking enough. I guess if you showed pedophilia and some rape that might make the point, but usually filmed debauchery either seems silly or somewhat fun.

Emma (1996) - I usually loathe Palthrow but this is one role I like her in. She was criticized at the time as being too American, but I think she's not too much of a Yankee.

Sweet Bird Of Youth (1989) - Wasn't Liz a little too old for the role? She's supposed to be washed up movie star, but still young enough to make a comeback. I don't imagine her as 56 years old. In any case, I can't imagine Taylor having the acting chops to do well in the part.

Re: Blues Grant Mohawk Merry Warui Bible Witch Sweet Emma Girl Dreams

Yes, even in Aldrich's Sodom And Gomorrah their wickedness didn't seem to justify total annihilation. But then again, how awful could man have been for God to annihilate everyone but Noah and his family in the flood? And could they be any worse than the horrors we see on the nightly news or newspaper headlines today?

I like Paltrow as an actress, I don't get the haters. She's good. As a celebrity however, she needs to shut up. Every time she opens her mouth, she sticks her foot in it.

As I said, two of Taylor's best performances were in Williams, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer so I think she has the chops for it. I blame it on the awful script. If they had stuck to Williams and if Roeg had given it some juice then it might have worked. As it is, it's ..... terrible. As for her age, she looked gorgeous, she could have passed for 40ish.

In ancient Egypt, cats were worshipped as gods. They have never forgotten this

Re: Blues Grant Mohawk Merry Warui Bible Witch Sweet Emma Girl Dreams

THE BIRTH OF THE BLUES is a decidedly grandiose title for what is a typically anodyne Paramount musical of the 1930s. But Mary Martin was never really considered one of those outsized personalities like Ethel Merman or Carol Channing or even Tammy Grimes. Rather like Betty Grable, she was in Hollywood for a while, not really getting anywhere. In Grable's case, it was going to Broadway to star in DuBARRY WAS A LADY (when MGM made the movie, they cast Lucille Ball) which caused 20th to sign her up; Martin did some movies, but never really got anywhere, when she decided to accept an offer to appear in LEAVE IT TO ME! in which she sang "My Heart Belongs to Daddy". In Grable's case, her Broadway sojourn helped her to return to Hollywood as a star; in Martin's case, her Broadway triumph led to more Broadway (ONE TOUCH OF VENUS, LUTE SONG, SOUTH PACIFIC). Mary Martin was pleasant and certainly she could sing, but she was never quite movie material.

Yes, it's funny how things can change. When DuBARRY WAS A LADY was made into a movie, it was one of several movies (BEST FOOT FORWARD was another) which MGM hoped would turn Lucille Ball into a movie star, but by the time of MISS GRANT TAKES RICHMOND, Ball was out of her MGM contract and was freelancing. It should be noted that she had become successful in radio in the late 1940s with Richard Denning as her costar. When it was suggested that she turn her radio show into a TV show, she made one condition: she wanted to replace Richard Denning with her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz. The rest, as they say, is history, but MISS GRANT TAKES RICHMOND was a movie which shows Lucille Ball going all-out as a clown, indications of things to come for I LOVE LUCY.

It seems as if the great movie comics of the sound era no longer find much favor among film fans. Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Danny Kaye: at their best, they still make me laugh, as much as the Marx Brothers or W.C. Fields or Mae West. MERRY ANDREW was a film in which MGM tried to fit Danny Kaye into their studio machine. Not a success. It's not bad, but never takes off. Kaye proves he can act, he's playing a character and it's not just one of his shticks, but it's not a real character study (the way THE FIVE PENNIES is) and it's not a vehicle where he can take off (like he did in THE COURT JESTER). MGM had signed Pier Angeli for TERESA (directed by Fred Zinnemann), but Leslie Caron turned out to be more popular, so MGM had no idea what to do with her, and this was the period where she was playing leading lady to a bunch of leading men (Stewart Granger in THE LIGHT TOUCH, Paul Newman in SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME, Danny Kaye here). I kept wanting to like it more than i did. (You'd think that having a circus as part of the story would allow for some real crazy slapstick, but this is MGM, so no.)

In the late 1940s, Kurosawa made two great thrillers: STRAY DOG and DRUNKEN ANGEL. When he returned to the thriller format in the early 1960s, he came up with two of his most intricate films: HIGH AND LOW and this one, THE BAD SLEEP WELL. I mean: these are epics! In both these films, the stories slowly uncover layers of corruption and evil. In THE BAD SLEEP WELL, though you think the plot is straightforward, there are always twists which are unexpected, and Kurosawa maintains the suspense to an almost intolerable degree.

Huston's THE BIBLE has gotten a very bad rap; unlike REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE and A WALK WITH LOVE AND DEATH, which were given terrible reviews upon release but have been reevaluated, THE BIBLE is still dismissed. But i'm glad you understand what it is: Huston is presenting the early stories of the Bible as simply that. It's actually very straightforward, and there's no attempt to hype up anything.

Though there were obvious changes made in order to get SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH made into a movie in 1962, it had one saving grace: it preserved the performance of Geraldine Page. Going from the inhibited Alma in SUMMER AND SMOKE, she showed her fiery range in YOUTH. Ok, so Elizabeth Taylor didn't have anything like that kind of range, but playing a movie star shouldn't have been outside her capabilities. But evidently it was. Gavin Lambert was a fine writer of biographies (his book on Norma Shearer is probably the best thing written about her, and his book on Nazimova is also fine) and he's written some good fiction about LA; as a screenwriter, though, he's erratic. His literate screenplay for SONS AND LOVERS is quite good, though it misses the sometimes overpowering emotions raging in D.H. Lawrence, but his script for INSIDE DAISY CLOVER is a botch (which is amazing because he threw out most of his own novel, starting with the fact that the book is about LA in the 1950s, and the movie is set in the 1930s) and this is a travesty. Not that Williams isn't above making a fool of himself, but this seems excessively coarse.

Jane Austen proved to be quite the source for some good movies. Ang Lee did a fine job directing SENSE AND SENSIBILITY from Emma Thompson's very astute adaptation, and this version of EMMA is lively and amusing. (This was also the period when Gwyneth Paltrow was playing British a lot - this, SLIDING DOORS, culminating in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE.) I just want to say: it seems like there's a tendency to build people up as stars, and then knock them down. Gwyneth Paltrow isn't any more or less silly/deluded than stars of the past like Shirley MacLaine or Jane Fonda. In THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, it's said that George is spoiled because his mother never loved his father, so she poured all her emotions into her son. Well, Blythe Danner had one of the most disappointing careers in the movies (though she fared somewhat better on the stage); she took out the frustrations of her career by pampering her kids rotten, especially Gwyneth. But during this period, Gwyneth Paltrow was a critical darling, but once she won her Oscar, it was like she was wearing a target. Yet she is a star: she does have that forceful personality. And she's actually talented. During her guest appearances on GLEE, she even proved she could sing and dance! But it's become fashionable to knock her as it is also fashionable to knock Anne Hathaway. EMMA was done in the period when Paltrow was a star-in-the-making, and it was popular enough for her to become one of Harvey Weinstein's stars of choice.

Isn't A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT something? It's one of the most elegant little vampire movies of recent years. It's not assaultive, like so many recent horror movies. It's more like horror movies like THE INNOCENTS, THE HAUNTING or Joseph Losey's THE DAMNED. And it does make LA look like a foreign country!

I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS has actually done well at the box office. For a specialty (read: arthouse/limited) release, it's holding on and it seems to be getting an audience. I think it's a nice movie. Blythe Danner has said that this is her first starring role in a movie, but that's not quite true. Her big chance came in 1974, with LOVIN' MOLLY (but she discounts that). It was an unfortunate film in many ways. It was directed by Sidney Lumet, in the period when he was directing SERPICO and DOG DAY AFTERNOON and NETWORK; it's his only flop from that period! It was based on a Larry McMurtry novel, as were HUD and TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, and once again, it was the only flop of the bunch. And Danner herself seemed to fit into the McMurtry heroine archetype: a husky-voiced strong young woman with sensual abandon, like Patricia Neal before and Debra Winger after. Neal won an Oscar, Winger was nominated for one, and Danner was ignored (because the film was a flop). But in answer to the question: why didn't Blythe Danner become a star? Even Stanley Kauffmann used to wonder about that, because he wondered why Danner wasn't getting anywhere near the parts that she should have, when Meryl Streep's career was flourishing. Well, a long time ago, a friend of mine, who was working in Hollywood, handled a bunch of screentests for (as they say) a major motion picture. And Blythe Danner was one of the actresses tested. (Another was Sigourney Weaver, this was before ALIEN, in fact, the screentest Weaver did was seen by Ridley Scott, which helped Weaver secure the role of Ripley.) After it was over, my friend asked why Danner didn't get the part, since her screentest was the best, and my friend was told, "But nobody gets to *beep* Blythe Danner!" In short: Blythe Danner has a (personally) spotless reputation: once she married Bruce Paltrow, that was it, not even a hint of scandal. (Do you remember when Meryl Streep did HEARTBURN and there were all those rumors about an affair with Jack Nicholson? And then they compounded it by doing IRONWEED together?) It's not like Blythe Danner is a prude: in LOVIN' MOLLY, she did nude scenes. But it's just that, in terms of *beep* nobody got to do it to Blythe Danner, so nobody was willing to give her the part. (But on LOVIN' MOLLY, a star was - almost - born; midway through the shoot, Blythe Danner found out she was pregnant, and the baby would be Gwyneth Paltrow.)

Re: Blues Grant Mohawk Merry Warui Bible Witch Sweet Emma Girl Dreams

I just want to say: it seems like there's a tendency to build people up as stars, and then knock them down. Gwyneth Paltrow isn't any more or less silly/deluded than stars of the past like Shirley MacLaine or Jane Fonda
Thank you! It seems everybody loves to be in at the beginning discovering a new star and building them up but once they fulfill their potential and actually become stars, it seems everyone is eager to knock them off their pedestal. I distinctly remember in the 60s how Julie Andrews was both the critics and public's darling with Mary Poppins and then The Sound Of Music. Everybody was in love with her. But after The Sound Of Music made her the biggest Star (male or female) in the world, the knives came out! The apogee was 1968 and the emergence of the new darling, Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl which had critics wetting themselves (quite understandably) over her while Andrews' Star! was savaged and Andrews declared "old fashioned", out with the old, in with the new. It took over 10 years and Blake Edwards' "10" before it was okay to like Andrews again.

In ancient Egypt, cats were worshipped as gods. They have never forgotten this

The Ups and Downs Of Major Stardom

Yes, Addison, and Doris Day suffered a somewhat similar fate, but as Andrews in effect replaced her as Hollywood's 's #1 wholesome screen queen. her decline wasn't so swift nor so cruel as to what happened to Julie Andrews. Doris was ready to let it go.

Prior to Miss Day, Betty Hutton suffered a worse fate, and as her issues were, it seems, chemical, as in imbalance (in the brain, I mean) and possibly drugs as well. I don't know the real story (does anybody?), but it's a sad one, and the interview she did with Robert Osborne some years before her death was the most heartbreaking I've ever seen of a major motion picture star.

The luckiest stars were the ones who knew when to quit: Garbo, Irene Dunne, Loretta Young, Victor Mature, William Powell, Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott (who rode off together), Cary Grant, Donna Reed, among many others. Some older stars just hung in there too long: Bette Davis, Jimmy Stewart and Kirk Douglas come to mind.

Re: The Ups and Downs Of Major Stardom

The luckiest stars were the ones who knew when to quit
To that list you can add Goldie Hawn (last film was 13 years ago) and Gene Hackman (last film was 11 years ago). Both voluntarily left the scene while they were still at the top.

In ancient Egypt, cats were worshipped as gods. They have never forgotten this

The "Sort Ofs"

Good for Goldie and Gene.

Then there were those who sort of knew when to quit but not quite:

Cornel Wilde, after a fashion.

Jeanne Crain didn't outstay her welcome.

I suppose Nancy Kelly, though I wish she'd done more as an actress.

Going way back: Evelyn Ankers.

Basically, aside from Perry Mason, Barbara Hale, though as Della Street became her signature role I don't see how she could have "come back", as it were, playing any other character.

Mark Stevens is a maybe, as he was never much in demand, as the budgets of his starring vehicles declined with each passing year.

Didn't a lot of Metro guys just sort of fall off the radar screen? I'm thinking of James Craig, Robert Sterling, even Marshall Thompson, to a degree. I believe Donald Woods was with them for a while. John Carroll sure was, then blew when he signed with Republic!

Basically, Van Johnson's big screen career was over by 1959; and he hadn't really been in demand for a while. He did a lot of stage work, remained active. He just wasn't a movie star anymore, and it didn't seem to bother him in the least.

Another who either knew when to quit or no one wanted anymore: Bob Cummings.

Re: The "Sort Ofs"

Oddly enough, Cummings had one of his best roles and maybe his best performance in one of his last, The Carpetbaggers. Yes, it's a trashy film, but good-quality trash with Cummings as a sleazebag and stealing the show. Sentiment had perhaps elevated Ladd's performance in the minds of many critics as he was dead for a couple of months by the time it came out, but either of these two vets showed the once promising Peppard just how it's done.

It ain't easy being green, or anything else, other than to be me

Cummings, Dennis Morgan, Dmytryk & Others

The virtual disappearance of Bob Cummings from the big and little screens after 1966-67 or thereabouts is an enigma. Maybe he wanted it that way. An actor who had a somewhat similar career, Dennis Morgan, just plain up and quit (or is there a story there?); and unlike Cummings he never had a major TV career. I remember him doing nicely on a Hitchcock half-hour, and looking healthy enough.

The Carpetbaggers is a lot of fun. Yet another RKO alumnus, Edward Dmtyryk, crosses paths with another, Mark Robson, in directing a big, hugely successful trashy film about Hollywood within a short period of time. (I think of Robson and Robert Wise as more alike, but Dmytryk's career path wasn't that different aside from the Blacklist; and like them, he never became the Great Director he seemed destined to become early in his career.)

Re: Cummings, Dennis Morgan, Dmytryk & Others

I vaguely recall seeing Dennis Morgan in a Hitchcock show. Wasn't he being ogled by some elderly women who had a dead body in their apartment?

Cummings was in the Stagecoach remake, again as a sleazy type - the banker. That wasn't a bad film actually once one gets past Alex Cord and Ann-Margret who still hadn't quite reached full range. Cummings, Van Heflin and Bing Crosby in some stunt casting in the Thomas Mitchell role were all quite good and the chase scene is wonderfully shot by William Clothier and not scored by Jerry Goldsmith. Which isn't to say that he didn't do the film, but they opted to let the visuals dominate and I don't believe there's a note heard during the chase.

It ain't easy being green, or anything else, other than to be me

Re: Cummings, Dennis Morgan, Dmytryk & Others

There's nothing wrong with the Remake of Stagecoach. It was just a movie that didn't need to be remade.

Re: Cummings, Dennis Morgan, Dmytryk & Others

There's nothing wrong with the Remake of Stagecoach.

Other than it is utterly mediocre, of course. Bland and forgettable would describe it best. It sucks donkey balls next to exceptional westerns such as the excellent THE LAST HUNT and the haunting THE HANGING TREE.

It is certainly fortunate that bad taste isn't a crime rc. If it was you would be serving hard time in Angola dude (smile emoticon).

Dennis & Bob

Yes, that's the one. I believed they both commented on his being "a handsome young man". Handsome he may have been, young he was not.

I've never seen the Stagecoach remake. The producers bought the rights to the John Ford original and I believe they kept it out of circulation for a few years. The movie took some heat on account of this.

Bob Cummings must have had something going for him: he appeared, separately, in films with Warren Beatty and Warren's sister, Shirley MacLaine, and I'm guessing both were fond of him. Alfred Hitchcock was.

Cummings shared a passion for cooking with the director, and Cummings was among the few (only?) actors who were true friends of Hitchcock (leaving aside Norman Lloyd, who worked for Hitch on his TV show as producer and occasionally director).

When he died, I read in Cummings' obituary that while he was also good friends with Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy, when asked to campaign for Reagan when he ran for president he politely refused. The reason was apparently less political than personal. Bob just wasn't political, didn't campaign for anyone.

The Last Hunt (1956)

Stars: Robert Taylor, Stewart Granger, Lloyd Nolan, Deborah Paget
Plot: In the Old West, two men with vastly differing views on killing and Indians partner to hunt Buffalo. After killing a Sioux raiding party, one man takes a squaw for his own thereby leading to conflict and a showdown.
Pros: Robert Taylor, Several Location shots, Acting
Cons: Real Buffalo killed on screen, Miscast supporting actors, Too stage bound and talky, Mediocre Script

Produced by Liberal MGM producer Dory Shary this adult western is really another civil rights morality play with Psycho Robert Taylor (full of greed, a love of killing, and a hatred for "Injuns") is opposed by Good Guy Granger. There are a few good location shots and bursts of outdoor activity -but too much is shot on sound stage "campfires" and Hollywood backlots. There's much talk and little action, and the movie ends with a whimper not a bang. While Granger more or less convinces as a Westerner, the supporting cast fairs less well. Nolan is too urbane and nasal as the lovable old coot/sidekick ( ala Walter Brennan) while Deborah Paget is about as Indian as Myrna Loy. Justly characterized as bleak, it seems much longer than the 104 minute run time as Granger takes forever to break with the Psychotic Taylor. The on-screen Buffalo killing (done by National Park Rangers) adds nothing and manages to be both disgusting and boring at the same time.

Summary: Notable only for the excellent performance by Robert Taylor, otherwise a mediocre talky Western. People who dislike seeing Animals killed onscreen should avoid at all costs.

Re: The Last Hunt (1956)

Big disagreement here. I think The Last Hunt is a very underrated western. Talky? Perhaps but not mediocre. It's not a traditional western to be sure but there's a nice intelligence and maturity to it. As for the movie ending with a whimper and not a bang, I first saw the film as a kid and I'll never forget the horror I felt at Taylor's end.

Paget may have been as Indian as Myrna Loy but she was the "go to" exotic for 1950s film. In addition to The Last Hunt, she played Indian maidens in Broken Arrow (1950) and White Feather (1955) as well as Polynesian in Bird Of Paradise (1951) and Egyptian in Princess Of The Nile (1954), Arab in Omar Khayaam (1957) and Hindu in Fritz Lang's Tiger Of Eschnapur and Indian Tomb (1959). Not bad for a girl from Colorado.

In ancient Egypt, cats were worshipped as gods. They have never forgotten this

Re: The Last Hunt (1956)

Big disagreement here. I think The Last Hunt is a very underrated western. Talky? Perhaps but not mediocre. It's not a traditional western to be sure but there's a nice intelligence and maturity to it. As for the movie ending with a whimper and not a bang, I first saw the film as a kid and I'll never forget the horror I felt at Taylor's end.

I found the shocking ending silly. I kept wondering why a seasoned Buffalo hunter would allow himself to caught in the open without any means of staying warm. Further, whatever happened to Robert Taylor's horse? It just disappears.

And Gee, i don't know. I guess if I was freezing to death I'd probably let got of that "we'll meet in the morning and settle this" idea & gone up to the cave where Granger was nice and warm and called him out. But he was a Psycho so maybe that explains everything.

And I won't even bring up the fact that Taylors' breath doesn't show on screen despite freezing to death! Or the lone Buffalo just wandering by to say hello to Robert Taylor in the middle of the night - as opposed to staying with the Buffalo herd and staying warm.

Re: The Last Hunt (1956)

Boo and Hiss to you!

Have responded to you on the Western board mate

The Spikeopath - Hospital Number 217

Dead Men Don't Disturb James Bond

First Time Viewings

R.P.M. (1970). Appointed college president very suddenly in a bid to quell protesting students, a sociology professor finds maintaining order more difficult than he had once theorised in this grim drama from Stanley Kramer. The film has gained a mixed reputation over time, and as per Kramer norm, it is fairly blunt and unsubtle, with its agenda spelled out through dialogue. If flawed in the execution though, the film is a lot better than one might expect given that Kramer once cited it as his nadir (obviously, The Domino Principle and Oklahoma Crude slipped from his mind). Anthony Quinn is solid in the lead here and there is something fascinating about his dilemma as he finds his allegiances torn between his colleagues and students; it is obvious he wants to stay on friendly terms with both disputing sides, and yet it soon becomes imperative for him to make a call. There is also a curious dynamic at play as Quinn tests out everything he has been lecturing about. The film trips up a bit by noticeably siding more with the professors (who appear rational and passionate about education) than the students (who are childishly unwilling to compromise and irresponsible) but this does at least make it refreshingly different from the likes of The Strawberry Statement and other films of its ilk. The film also features lots of interesting visual experimentation from Kramer. A hallucination segment is appropriately bizarre and the angular shots as Quinn and his girlfriend argue are a great touch. The significance of the title though (political revolutions per minute?) is a different matter though. -- #37 (of 98) for 1970, between Brewster McCloud and Getting Straight. (first viewing, DVD)

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982). Investigating a murder made to look like an accident, a 1940s private detective finds himself dodging shady men and sinister dames in this one-of-a-kind film noir spoof. The film is not only shot in black and white, but features footage actual 40s noirs spliced in with the action - a technique that allows Steve Martin to interact with the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant and James Cagney. Several scenes are simply a wonder to behold as smart editing makes the inclusion of archive footage near seamless (only the audio fails to match on occasion). The reconstruction of 40s movie sets and costumes is top notch, with a train carriage from Suspicion particularly well designed. While a marvelous technical achievement though (and fun for those well versed in noir), the film does not stack up too well to close scrutiny. The story is convoluted beyond belief due to so many movies being intertwined, and the incorporated footage is never that funny. There is more humour in Steve Martin making an endless cup of coffee than there is in him dressing in drag to play a dangerous femme fatal as well as Ma from White Heat. Reiner's butler with an agenda character is also far more amusing than the actual noir characters along the way. If not as funny or as cohesive as it could be though, the film is encapsulating from start to finish with so much archive footage thrown into the mix. Scattered movie plugs do not go astray either, with one of the most memorable being Martin likening an archive footage Charles Laughton to the Hunchback of Notre Dame! -- #34 (of 104) for 1982, between Victor Victoria and Groucho. (first viewing, DVD)

Flightplan (2005). Waking up on a plane flight to discover the daughter who she was travelling with missing without a trace, a recently widowed woman grapples with the possibility that she only imagined boarding with her little girl in this stylish mystery thriller starring Jodie Foster. The darkly lit plane interiors and frequently spinning, voyeuristic cinematography create an unshakeable atmosphere of dread and paranoia, and the first half of the film is highly involving stuff with Foster providing a three dimensional portrait of a worried parent driven over the edge to the point of questioning her own sanity. There is a very significant twist in the film though, and it comes way too early on (only shortly after the halfway point). Revealing the twist so soon gives us far too long to pick apart the story and numerous plot holes. It also leads to the second half of the film adopting a very different and more conventional narrative style, with Foster having to spoiler battle wits with a chief baddie again and again. The resolution also comes about way too easily with everything feeling like it has been swept to the side rather than neatly wrapped up. Given the effectiveness of the film's first half though, Flightplan is a difficult film to totally dislike. The plane interiors are also simply bursting with imagination as it is a double-decker craft no less, complete with its own bar, children's room and nooks and crannies galore. There is actually something frightening in just how large and expansive the aircraft is, and this element is at least milked by the filmmakers for all it is worth. -- #41 (of 65) for 2005, between The Big White and Bubble. (first viewing, television broadcast)

Disturbia (2007). It sounds a lot like Rear Window (with a touch of The 'Burbs) as a housebound young man begins to suspect his neighbour of homicide, however, Disturbia has ample unique touches of its own. For one, there is a teen angst comedy angle with the protagonist under house arrest on his summer vacation and attracted to his new next door neighbour (a feisty Sarah Roemer). He is also not in a wheelchair, which opens the story up more than Hitchcock's take (his eventual accomplices also travel outside the house on several occasions). Where the film succeeds best is in depicting the boredom and frustration of a confined youth as well as highlighting just how easy it is to watch and film someone nowadays; when David Morse's character comments that "the world is in a heightened state of paranoia", his observation resonates deeply. As a straight mystery thriller, the film is somewhat less successful. There is never much doubt or ambiguity regarding the neighbour's guilt. The final half hour also descends a little too quickly into formulaic thrills and chills with all earlier comedy aspects and paranoia/voyeurism aspects soon forgotten, and effective as Morse is towards the end of the film, he is never half as intimidating as in his earlier scenes in which he pops up out of nowhere in car parks and suddenly turns up in the main character's home as a houseguest. While it does not quite all work, Disturbia is certainly fairly gripping while it lasts. The promotional poster also ranks of one of the finest of not only the year, but also the entire decade. -- #30 (of 59) for 2007, between Diary of the Dead and Fracture. (first viewing, HD-DVD)

Revision Viewings

A View to a Kill (1985). Not exactly the greatest swansong for Roger Moore as Bond, but far from his worst outing as the superspy either, A View to a Kill has gained a negative reputation over time that is only partially justified. Sure, the stunts are overblown and occasional silly (the half-car), the title makes no sense and Tanya Roberts is terrible, but a second viewing makes it easier to appreciate the bits and pieces of the film that do work. The scenes between Moore and Patrick Macnee (going undercover as his manservant) are excellent, and the section of the film involving Bond's stay at a rigged for audio mansion is very intense. Grace Jones, Christopher Walken and Willoughby Gray are also all very well cast in pivotal supporting roles, and Duran Duran's theme song is undeniably iconic, even if outshone by the fluoro style opening credits sequence that it appears in. -- Was #71, now #57 (of 113) for 1985. (second viewing, Blu-ray Disc)

Man of the Year (2006). As a comedian is elected US president through electronic voting malfunction, Man of the Year has an intriguing enough premise that the film is engaging throughout, even when not very credible. It never makes sense that nobody questions the technology after the huge disparity between exit polls and actual results. The nature of the malfunction is a tad baffling too. The film envokes lots of intelligent ruminations though, such as the implications of announcing the glitch to the world and letting the public feel like their vote did not count. Along similar lines to Dave, the film also suggests that non-politicians could be better leaders. The best element of the film is Laura Linney's nervous, paranoid performance. The thriller elements involving her clash against the comedy, but it is a really fine bit of acting in a film that works just as well upon revision. -- Was, still is, #12 (of 60) for 2006. (second viewing, DVD)

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

Re: Dead Men Don't Disturb James Bond

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982). I think this was an excellent idea for a comedy that had mediocre execution. But then that's my opinion of almost every Carl Reiner movie comedy. IRC, there just aren't that many jokes, and they aren't very funny.

Re: Dead Men Don't Disturb James Bond

Same here, I'm afraid. Technically it's quite clever, and using Miklos Rozsa to score the film because he scored some of the original films used was inspired, but sadly the script is just mundane. The lager commercials it inspired were much funnier.

"Security - release the badgers."

Re: Lager commercials

Sounds interesting (I must admit that I don't know the commercials you are referring to). It would make sense that the technique would work better in a shorter format such as a television advertisement since it is more of an amusing gimmick than anything else at the end of the day.

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

Re: Lager commercials

Re: Dead Men Don't…

IRC, there just aren't that many jokes, and they aren't very funny.
Yeah, that's the main pitfall of the film. So much time is spent meticulously reconstructing sets and costumes and splicing them into a semi-coherent story that the filmmakers sometimes seem to forget that they are creating a comedy. Either that, or Reiner and Martin clearly thought constantly telling Bogie to wear a tie was absolutely hilarious (it isn't).

I think this was an excellent idea for a comedy that had mediocre execution. But then that's my opinion of almost every Carl Reiner movie comedy.
Reiner is certainly a filmmaker who rarely seems short on ideas, but the quality of execution does indeed tend to vary. I'm actually a big fan of All of Me and The Jerk, but the likes of Sibling Rivalry and Where's Poppa leave a bit to be desired. My favourite Reiner film is his very first - Enter Laughing. I've never encountered anything quite like it from his latter output.

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

Re: Dead Men Don't…

I agree with you about Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, for sure.

💕 JimHutton (1934-79) and ElleryQueen 👍

Re: Dead Men Don't…

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid was a really neat surprise. I generally avoid reading about films before watching them, so all that I knew about Plaid before entering it was that it was a noir spoof, and it quite honestly took me a few minutes to work out what was going on. Not the funniest film ever made, nor the most coherent one, but a film with a surefire lot of interest in terms of how meticulously constructed the whole thing is.

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

Re: Dead Men Don't…

Oh, I know! Finding those clips from films and making a story out of them must have taken quite a bit of time.

💕 JimHutton (1934-79) and ElleryQueen 👍

Re: Dead Men Don't Disturb James Bond

Have you seen Carry on Spying (1964)?

The Spikeopath - Hospital Number 217

Re: What classics did you see last week? (6/15-6/21)

Mea Culpa (Bruce Conner, 1981) 8/10

Breakaway (Bruce Conner, 1966) 8+/10

Vivian (Bruce Conner, 1965) 7-/10

The White Rose (Bruce Conner, 1967) 7/10

Marilyn Times Five (Bruce Conner, 1973) 6/10

Take the 5:10 to Dreamland (Bruce Conner, 1976) 8/10

Valse Triste (Bruce Conner, 1977) 7+/10

Permian Strata (Bruce Conner, 1969) 4/10

America Is Waiting (Bruce Conner, 1981) 6/10

Ten Second Film (Bruce Conner, 1965) 5/10

Devo: Mongoloid (Bruce Conner, 1978) 6/10

Three Screen Ray (Bruce Conner, 2006) -/10

Die Parallelstrasse (Ferdinand Khittl, 1962) 9/10

Auf geht's (Ferdinand Khittl, 1956) 8/10

Eine Stadt feiert Geburtstag (Ferdinand Khittl, 1959) 7/10

Das magische Band (Ferdinand Khittl, 1960) 8-/10

Synchromy No. 2 (Mary Ellen Bute & Ted Nemeth, 1935) 5/10

Rhythm in Light (Mary Ellen Bute & Ted Nemeth & Melville Webber, 1934) 5/10

Parábola (Rutherford Boyd & Mary Ellen Bute & Bill Nemeths & Ted Nemeths, 1937 5+/10

Der Tag ist nah (Alexander Kluge, 1997) 2/10

Raumfahrt als inneres Erlebnis: Gen. Lt. Pugatschow bei Stromsperre in Baikonur (Alexander Kluge, 1999) 3/10

Zip-Tone-Cat-Tune (Bill Brand, 1972) 4/10

Touch Tone Phone Film (Bill Brand, 1973) 2-/10

Themis (Dwinell Grant, 1940) 7/10

Contrathemis (Dwinell Grant, 1941) 6+/10

Looney Lens: Anamorphic People (1927) (rewatch) 3/10

Out of the Melting Pot (W.J. Ganz Studio, 1927) (rewatch) 5/10

H2O (Ralph Steiner, 1929) (rewatch) 6/10

Romance (Georges Schwizgebel, 2011) 7+/10

Preserving Cultural Traditions in a Period of Instability (S.Brameshuber & T. Draschan, 2004) 4-/10

Surf and Seaweed (Ralph Steiner, 1931) 2+/10

Simple Destiny Abstractions (Douglass Crockwell, 1938) 6/10

Scherzo (Norman McLaren, 1939) 6-/10

In Order Not to Be Here (Deborah Stratman, 2002) 6+/10

From the Notebook of... (Robert Beavers, 2000) 1/10

Une collection particulière (Cannes cut) (Walerian Borowczyk, 1973) 6/10

Der Aufstieg (Walter Ruttmann & Julius Pinschewer, 1926) 4/10

Stardust (Nicolas Provost, 2010) 7/10

Welfare (Frederick Wiseman, 1975) 6-/10

Primer (Shane Carruth, 2004) (5th viewing) 10/10

The Sand Pebbles (Robert Wise, 1966) 5+/10

Mystery Science Theater 3000: San Francisco International (1994) 8-/10
San Francisco International Airport: San Francisco International (1970) 4/10

Classic Albums: Metallica - The Black Album (Matthew Longfellow, 2001) 7/10

Björk: Biophilia Live (Nick Fenton & Peter Strickland, 2014) 5/10

Max Payne (mode: New York Minute) (written by Sam Lake, 2001) (6th+ playthrough) 10/10

Nichijou (2011) - Ep1: 6/10

Notable Online Stuff:
The Willis Frame [by Steven Benedict]
How Do We Measure an Audience?
South Park Season 16 Deleted Scenes (Censored)
After Hours - 10 Terrifying Implications of the Matrix Universe
Espionage/action: Smarienberg ad/Smirnoff
Denki-gai no Honya-san Funny Moment: Sensei Girl Power Check!
PALE FLOWER (1964) Trailer - The Criterion Collection
I've got two boyfriends. It's time polyamory became socially acceptable - Simon Copland
MacGruber - Saturday Night Live [multiple clips]
KoRn Interview (with HEAD and Jonathan Davis, by HONDA CIVIC VISIONS Blinddate, Germany 2013)
Movie: The Movie
The New Kid [by TomSka]
PIZZA TIME [by TomSka]
Dead - Cyanide & Happiness Shorts

"Let's went, before we are dancing at the end of a rope, without music."

Re: What classics did you see last week? (6/15-6/21)

Wot the bloomin' heck is biophilia? That Bjork dame is one strange and unique human, that's for sure. Wot's that? A concert film or summat like that?

God Save the King

Re: What classics did you see last week? (6/15-6/21)

An indulgence in life, or summat like that?

God Save the King

Hou Hsiao-hsien: The Early Years

This month, the Brussels Film Museum is showing a retrospective of Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien. Time for me to fill in some gaps in his filmography and revisit some favourites.

Cute Girl (Taiwan-1980) dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien
Before Hou became known as one of the greatest living filmmakers, he paid his dues making a string of romantic musical star-vehicles for local Taiwanese pop-stars.
In this, his début feature, a young girl decides, before entering into an arranged marriage to a guy she's never met, to visit her aunt in the countryside. There she meets a prospector and they fall in love, you can more or less guess the rest.
What's remarkable about Cute Girl is that this generic rom-com may not feel like a Hou Hsiao-hsien film, it already looks like one. Not only does it contrasts urban life with a bucolic view of countryside, a theme that will reappear in many of his later works, he already favours long take tableaux over the more common continuity editing you would expect to see in a film like this. There are some intricately staged shots of groups of people moving through the frame that could fit right into Hou's later, more artistic films.
It's no masterpiece, it never was intended to be, but there are some laughs, some nice moments and it's light and breezy like the many pop-songs on the soundtrack.

Cheerful Wind (Taiwan-1981) dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien
Just like Cute Girl, Hou Hsiao-hsien's second is another rom-com, made with pretty much the same cast and even in some of the same locations.
While Cute Girl won't go down in cinema history as a great achievement in story-telling, at least it had conflicts, crises and resolutions, all pretty much in the right place. Cheerful Wind, from a script written by Hou himself, has very little of that, it just sort of rambles along with little to keep our interest.
Hou also seems oblivious to what a selfish, narcissistic and nasty female character he has created: she pulls stunts that no human being with an ounce of empathy or a thimble of relationship-skills would ever dream of doing: not only does she juggle two boyfriends, not telling boyfriend 2 that she's leaving on a trip to Europe with boyfriend 1, when found out she asks boyfriend 2 to meet her at the airport, where she tells him, in front of boyfriend 1, that she'll be back for him and then steps on a plane with the other guy. In the real world that would get you summarily dumped by both boyfriends, yet Hou seems to want us to think she's charming.
There's another word for what she is. It also begins with a c.

The Green Green Grass of Home (Taiwan-1983) dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien
After his two previous films, The Green Green Grass of Home feels like a major step up. This tale of a young teacher from Taipei moving to a rural village feels more personal, less bound by genre-restrictions, more care is given to cinematography, shot-compositions become more precise.
It's still far from flawless, though. As a screenwriter, Hou still seems unable to create vivid female characters; the young teacher the hero has a budding romance with is a non-entity and the ex-girlfriend/stalker from Taipei that suddenly pops up is such a broad caricature, she seems to have driven up from a different movie all together. Also, after watching Kenny Bee star in three consecutive films, his mugging is really getting on my nerves.
Nevertheless, it's a sweet, gentle film that shows the promise of things to come

In Our Time (Taiwan-1982) dir. Yi Chang, Edward Yang, I-Chen Ko, Te-chen Tao
Two portmanteau-films, In Our Time and The Sandwich Man, heralded the beginning of what became known as the Taiwanese New Wave, a fresh new wind through Taiwan cinema that coincided with similar renaissances in other parts of Asia. But of the in total seven directors that contributed to those two films, only two would go on to major international careers: Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-hsien.
In the case of In Our Time, it's easy to spot the major talent: Edward Yang's segment, the second in a series of four about the different stages of growing up, sticks out head and shoulders above the rest. There's nothing earth-shattering about its story of first love and first heartbreak, but it's delicately, yet assuredly filmed with fine cinematography and subtle performances.
The first segment, about childhood, contains very stilted acting by kids and adults alike and the last two, about student life and early marriage, are amusing but forgettable trifles.

The Sandwich Man (Taiwan-1983) dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien, Jen Wan Zhuang, Xiang Zeng
Three stories about the struggle to make a living in early sixties Taiwan. Quality is distributed a little more evenly here. Hou's contribution, about a young man trying to support his wife and infant son by dressing up as a clown and being a walking billboard for a local movie theatre is fine, if a little sentimental; the second one, about travelling salesmen hawking pressure-cookers is the weakest, with a horrendously contrived ending. I actually enjoyed the third one the most: a mild satire on Taiwanese-American relationships, wherein a poor rickshaw driver is hit by the car of an attaché to the American embassy and, because the American's insurance, compensations and the fear of creating an international incident, he finds that getting run over is the best thing that ever happened to him.
I'm glad I saw both In Our Time and The Sandwich Man, but they're more important as springboards for the careers of Yang and HHH, than as films in their own right.

There is no truth to be found hidden in the word "I".

Mothra's Face Behind the Souls at Sea

Souls at Sea is a rousing 1937 sea yarn directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Gary Cooper, George Raft and Frances Dee. Cooper is on trial (isn't he always?) for his actions following the sinking of a ship and the rescue of passengers that required killing off a few. Cooper won't testify in his own defense (just like Mr,. Deeds) but as he's about to be carted away, George Zucco of all people comes in to provide the details to the judge and the audience. It turns out that Cooper and his friend and companion George Raft were once crew members of a slave ship, they were captured but released in order to complete a secret mission to put an end to the slave trade.

Particularly good in this one is Raft, perhaps the best performance of his career and one in which ancient texts had claimed he was nominated for a supporting Oscar. He was even asked about this on TV and denied the nomination saying he was never accused of being a good actor, but the rumor persisted. Raft falls for Olympe Bradna, the traveling companion of Frances Dee. Amazingly, Bradna was only 16 at the time of shooting but she does have poise and is quite engaging, enough so that Raft begins to shed his hardened shell and even begins to quote poetry to attract her attention. A sea-worthy adventure, Paramount obviously spent some money on it and the effects during the sinking are top-notch.

Mothra - Godzilla may be the most well-known figure of the kaiju adventures, and in his first film certainly the most ferocious. Mothra takes a different approach and while the film can be considered as much of a social commentary piece as Toho's first monster opus, the film is closer to a fairy tale than to science-fiction. TCM aired the Japanese version which is slightly longer yet oddly during the New Kirk City scenes, the head bad guy starts talking English to his flunkies. Yes, it all looks so fake - it did even in 1962 when I first saw it. But you have to laugh and enjoy it, especially at the sight of the miniature building that has the sign "New Kirk City Motors Bilding" (sic) on it.

The Face Behind the Mask is a Columbia B from 1941 that has Peter Lorre as the sweetest little just off-the-boat character you would ever want to see. Really, it's amazing that this actor started his career playing a serial killer of children. Not long after his arrival he's in a hotel fire and is so disfigured that no one will hire him. Despondent, he's about to jump off a bridge when he runs into George E. Stone who convinces him to lead a life of crime to earn money fast so he can get his face fixed. Evelyn Keyes is along for the ride as a blind girl who is thus unaware of Lorre's disfigurement and it is only with she that he displays any of the humanity that once existed.

One of the great low-budgeters from Robert Florey, a man who deserves a greater footnote in film history than to be remembered as the man who was kicked off Frankenstein in order to make room for James Whale.

It ain't easy being green, or anything else, other than to be me

Souls at Sea

Despite boasting Gary Cooper and George Raft in the leads and being nominated for three Oscars back in 1937, Souls at Sea has been pretty much forgotten by time, one of those obscure titles in both men's credits that didn't even trouble TV schedulers looking for late-night fillers before turning up in a very impressive transfer on Eureka's UK DVD release a few years ago. It's a shame, because it's a terrific and unusual yarn, lavishly staged and helmed with confidence by the undervalued Henry Hathaway. Coop is the sailor with a habit of being on slave ships when disaster leads to them freeing - rather than drowning - their human cargo who is persuaded by George Zucco's British intelligence man to set a trap for the biggest slave trader in the Americas with some altered sailing orders only to take passage on the ill-fated William Brown, which strikes disaster without any help from him and leads to him landing in the dock accused of mass murder. Very loosely based on fact, the finale was clearly a major influence on Cameron's take on the Titanic, with a fight on the sinking ship, two lovers in their cabin as the water rises and all-too convincing chaos and panic in a swamped and overmanned lifeboat.

Coop and Raft seem more interested in each other than Francis Dee's nominal love interest: indeed, a note that Coop writes to his friend is accompanied by the kind of romantic music more usually reserved for love letters, though, apart from the odd hero-worshipping gaze from Raft, that's about as far as the film goes down that particular alley. Henry Wilcoxen provides fine villainy as an arrogant double-dealing British naval officer who sees a chance to grab a big piece of the slave trade himself after years of smalltime informing, though with a French accent as thick as hers it was a mistake to cast Olympe Bradna's he's-not-really-one-of-them love interest for Raft as an English maid. The courtroom framing structure is a bit of a blind alley that seems contrived simply to create an ending that doesn't involve a lot of people in a lifeboat looking forlornly for land for a couple of reels, but it does its job efficiently enough without eating up too much screen time. Not a great film by any means, but certainly a very good one.

"Security - release the badgers."

Re: Souls at Sea

Originally the script called for Raft's character to tell Cooper's that "you're the only person I ever loved." For once Raft's inner voice was probably giving him some good advice but then again, had it remained, it might have kept the film's title in the public's mind. Like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? keeping alive the memory of "What a dump."

Raft scored a few points with the brass for his work on the film, and they gave him to Hathaway again for the director's next film, Spawn of the North which saw Raft getting top billing over the rising Henry Fonda and Dorothy Lamour and the rapidly declining John Barrymore.

It ain't easy being green, or anything else, other than to be me

Re: Souls at Sea

That Coop was just irresistible to everyone in the 30s: it's pretty clear why Adolphe Menjou was so determined to break up his romance with Helen Hayes in A Farewell to Arms as well.

"Security - release the badgers."

Re: Souls at Sea

At that even earlier stage, Cooper had that Richard Harris eyeliner trick going for him - no wonder Adolphe Menjou kept calling him "Baby."

It ain't easy being green, or anything else, other than to be me

Re: Souls at Sea

Richard Harris wore eyeliner???? When, pray....

Tell mama, Tell mama all....

Re: Souls at Sea

He definitely had it on in The Bible which I saw this week. Hmmm ... maybe that's why God smote him with the mark of Cain rather than for the murder of his brother.

In ancient Egypt, cats were worshipped as gods. They have never forgotten this

Re: Souls at Sea

Let's not forget Camelot.

It ain't easy being green, or anything else, other than to be me