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Friday, February 22, 2019

Home From The Hill (1960)

Set in a small East Texas town, the most powerful man (Robert Mitchum) in town and the one looked up to by most of the town's citizenry clashes with his wife (Eleanor Parker) over the upbringing of their son (George Hamilton). He's a chronic womanizer and his wife has had no relations with him since the birth of their son. But as he tries to pull his son away from the clutches of his wife to make a man of him, it sets forth a series of events that will have tragic consequences. Based on the novel by William Humphrey and directed by Vincente Minnelli (GIGI). There was a time in Hollywood when they were storytellers who told good stories. You'd be pulled into the lives of its characters, you liked them (or didn't) and their fates were of concern to you. As each scene unfolded, you learned a little more, just like chapters in a book. HOME FROM THE HILL is a perfect specimen of the Hollywood dream factory (in this case, MGM) at work. Everything is just right, the acting, the screenplay, the direction, the cinematography, the music etc. This was early in the careers of George Peppard and George Hamilton yet neither has ever been better. In one of his best performances, Mitchum shows what a sterling actor he was but he holds the screen like a true Movie Star and Eleanor Parker shows what an underrated screen presence she was. It's Minnelli at his best. You may find tears running down your cheeks by the end of the film but it's not manipulation, it's honest tears. A superior melodrama. With Luana Patten, Everett Sloane, Constance Ford, Anne Seymour and Ray Teal.  

Old Ironsides (1926)

It's the year 1798 and a farm boy (Charles Farrell) wants to join the Navy but he's shanghaied by a boatswain (Wallace Beery) who gets him liquored up and put on a merchant ship. But when the ship reaches the Mediterranean, they are attacked by Barbary pirates who capture them and take them to Tripoli to be sold as slaves. All except the pretty girl (Esther Ralston) on board who'll be given as a gift to the Sultan. Directed by James Cruze (THE COVERED WAGON), this ambitious sea epic silent would benefit by having some of the fat trimmed off it. The battle scenes are impressive and the production values are first rate. Curiously, the normally appealing Charles Farrell comes off as rather anemic here, not much of a dashing hero type but Esther Ralston as his love interest is lovely. Notable for its time, the film features a strong black character (George Godfrey) who plays the ship's cook. He's not played as a stereotype or used for comic relief and he's an active participant in the action. The transfer I saw had a tinny sounding piano score while the film needed a lush orchestral underscore. With George Bancroft and Johnnie Walker.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Man Who Loved Women (1983)

At the funeral of a renowned sculptor (Burt Reynolds) attended almost exclusively by women, his former analyst and lover (Julie Andrews) recollects how he loved them all in his way and they loved him back. An English language remake of the 1977 Francois Truffaut film and directed by Blake Edwards. The 1977 film was one of Truffaut's lesser works and I'm surprised Edwards thought it would translate well into an American film. The sculptor's obsession with the female sex and his inability to commit is not unlike the protagonist of SHAMPOO which came out some eight years earlier. But that film was not only better written and structured but had an actor (Warren Beatty) that was able to convey the angst of loving women perhaps too much yet unable to commit to a monogamous relationship which eventually leaves him alone. Reynolds is defeated by the role and I'm not sure if it's a case of miscasting or he just didn't have the acting chops. There's a sequence set in Houston involving Kim Basinger that's horrendous and just stops the movie cold and it never recovers. With Marilu Henner, Sela Ward, Jennifer Edwards, Barry Corbin and Cynthia Sikes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Arizona (1940)

Set in 1860 in the territory of Arizona, a drifter (William Holden) on his way to California takes a fancy to a whip wielding, pie baking hellcat (Jean Arthur). But he's not ready to settle down yet and when he moseys off to California, she begins to build her empire while awaiting his return. Based on the novel by Clarence Budington Kelland and directed by Wesley Ruggles. Running slightly over two hours, this large scale "epic" western covers a lot of territory. There are Indian attacks, stampedes, the Civil War, cattle drives, murder and robbery with some romance squeezed in. But it's just different enough to keep you glued to the screen. Most interesting are the role reversals. It's Holden who's romantic and marriage minded while Arthur is bossy and career driven. It's not until the very end of the movie where Holden's male dominance takes over. Another surprising twist is that the film's climactic gunfight between Holden and Warren William as a thieving dandy is done off screen whereas a traditional western would have milked it. The Oscar nominated score is by Victor Young. With Edgar Buchanan, Porter Hall, Regis Toomey and George Chandler.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

La Donna Del Lago (aka The Possessed) (1965)

A melancholy novelist (Peter Baldwin) returns to a remote lakeside hotel hoping to reconnect with an attractive maid (Virna Lisi) working there that he had previously been involved with. But to his shock, he discovers that during his absence, she has committed suicide. But rumors circulate that it was not suicide but, in fact, murder. Based on the novel by Giovanni Comisso and directed by Luigi Bazzoni and Franco Rossellini. A most unusual mystery film that is more artistic than usual for the genre. The novelist's crisis is not all that different than the malady infecting the protagonists of L'AVVENTURA or LA NOTTE. But rather than exploring the novelist's personal critical period, it evolves into a complicated thriller involving a family's dark secrets that will eventually destroy them. The creative B&W cinematography of Leonida Barboni (AFTER THE FOX) aids the film immeasurably. If the film's vague denouement proves unsatisfactory, the journey to it is quite intriguing. With Valentina Cortese, Philippe Leroy, Salvo Randone and Pia Lindstrom (Ingrid Bergman's daughter).   

Monday, February 18, 2019

Anna Karenina (1948)

A married woman (Vivien Leigh) visits her brother (Hugh Dempster) in Moscow and it is there that she meets the dashing Count Vronsky (Kieron Moore). Their love affair will ruin lives and end in tragedy. Based on the classic novel by Leo Tolstoy and directed by Julien Duvivier (PEPE LE MOKO). Tolstoy's novel has been filmed countless times for both film and television. The novel, of course, is too rich to satisfactorily translate to cinema without losing most of its complexity and most filmed versions eliminate everything outside of the Karenin(a)/Vronsky triangle. But of all the Annas I've seen, Vivien Leigh comes closest to capturing the angst and depth of Anna's suffering, much of it brought on by herself. Anna Karenina is a difficult character to embrace, a woman who leaves her child for her lover is never going to find many supporters. This handsomely shot (by Henri Alekan, ROMAN HOLIDAY) production is a solid adaptation all things considering. The underscore by Constant Lambert is a real beauty. With Ralph Richardson as Karenin, Sally Ann Howes, Martita Hunt, Michael Gough, Helen Haye, Mary Kerridge and Niall MacGinnis.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Bon Voyage (1962)

A family from Indiana takes an ocean liner to Paris for a holiday. But the father (Fred MacMurray) must deal with his daughter's (Deborah Walley) falling in love with a wealthy playboy (Michael Callan) and his older son's (Tommy Kirk) moody behavior. Meanwhile, the wife (Jane Wyman) finds herself pursued by a Hungarian lothario (Ivan Desny). Based on the novel by Merrjane and Joseph Hayes and directed by James Neilson (NIGHT PASSAGE). Typical 1960s live action fluff, essentially a sitcom on the big screen. This being a Disney film, "decadent" Paris is cleaned up to be family friendly. For example, Francoise Prevost as a hooker is the most G rated hooker you'll ever see. Also Deborah Walley is allowed to wear a bikini but she has a bow stuck in her navel! Even Fred MacMurray's swim trunks cover his belly button! I'm surprised the film allowed a bidet to be referenced though not by name. Still, audiences ate it up and the film was a big hit and was one of the year's top 10 grossing movies. With that bane of Disney moppets Kevin Corcoran, Jessie Royce Landis, Max Showalter and Georgette Anys.

Liu Lang Di Qiu (aka The Wandering Earth) (2019)

Set in the far future, the sun is fading away and mankind (much of whom have already perished) has moved underground. World leaders have united in an ambitious project to relocate Earth to another solar system in an effort to save mankind but that project will take thousands of years. Meanwhile, Earth is under the gravitational pull of Jupiter and it's only a matter of days before it collides. Based on the novel by Liu Cixin and directed by Frant Gwo. A massive hit in China, the film is being released internationally in the hopes of duplicating its success in China. Unfortunately, the print I saw (and I saw it in a large first run theatre) had small white subtitles that made it difficult to read especially since much of the background is light in color (lots of snow). To make matters worse, they zipped by so quickly that I barely had time to read them before another subtitle zipped on the screen! That aside, it's a bit more intelligent than the usual sci-fi Hollywood blockbuster although there isn't much in the way of character development though the film did manage to get my eyes to water up at the final goodbye of an astronaut father (Wu Jing) in space to his adult son (Qu Chuxiao) that he hasn't seen in 14 years. Being a Chinese (a socialist republic) movie, the film emphasizes self sacrifice and working together for the good of all. I was entertained but hopefully the subtitle problem will be remedied in any future transfers. With Ng Man Tat, Zhao Jinmai, Mike Sui and Arkady Sharogradsky. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Producers (2005)

A washed up theatrical producer (Nathan Lane) entices a young accountant (Matthew Broderick) to join him in a scheme to raise more money than they need for a Broadway flop and keep the excess capital. But first, they have to find the worst play ever written. Based on the hit Broadway musical which was based on the Oscar winning 1967 Mel Brooks movie comedy and directed by Susan Stroman,  who also directed the stage musical. I'm not a fan of the 1967 film. A little Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder go a long way for me. Not only do I find Lane and Broderick more agreeable but Brooks' bad taste goes down easier with song and dance. The songs were written by Brooks and they vary from serviceable to very good and Stroman's choreography is lively. The film isn't very cinematic which most of the reviews complained about. It's essentially a filmed play but in this case, it worked. Fans of the 1967 original film most likely won't have much patience for this incarnation but I had a wonderful time. With Uma Thurman (looking drop dead gorgeous), Will Ferrell, Gary Beach, Roger Bart, Michael McKean, Jon Lovitz, Debra Monk, John Barrowman and Andrea Martin. 

I Married A Monster From Outer Space (1958)

The day before his wedding, a bridegroom (Tom Tryon) has an encounter with an alien from another galaxy. On their honeymoon, his bride (Gloria Talbott) feels alarmed about a change in his personality. A year after their marriage and her concerns are stronger than ever! Directed by Gene Fowler Jr., this cult sci-fi horror movie is similar in tone to INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS which had come out two years before. Like that film, the alien invaders can be seen as substitutes for the fear of communism infiltrating our society. The aliens hate dogs and don't drink alcohol, how un-American can you get? More contemporary critics read a gay subtext into the film: wives whose husbands seem to have very little interest in them sexually and seem more comfortable with their own kind. The film is inconsistent but its narrative is strong enough to make for a compelling B movie and Tryon and Talbott gives strong performances which help elevate the tension factor. With Ty Hardin, Valerie Allen, John Eldredge, Peter Baldwin, James Anderson and Jean Carson.