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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Milano Calibro 9 (1972)

After being released from prison after serving three years for a bungled robbery, a man (Gastone Moschin) is harassed and coerced into returning to a life of crime by his former boss (Lionel Stander), who believes that the ex-con has the missing $300,000 that was never found. Directed by Fernando Di Leo, this violent crime thriller is a favorite of Quentin Tarantino and it's easy to see why. Even before the opening credits, we're treated to a brutal series of beatings and murders that's still shocking to view some 40 years later! The film has a political subtext but it's buried under the body count. Curiously, the only "good" person in the movie, the police inspector played by Luigi Pistilli is portrayed as an ineffective weakling while the professional assassin played by Philippe Leroy is seen as honorable because although he is a killer, he has his own moral code that he lives by. The film's bloody nihilistic finale leaves a rather sour aftertaste. Still, of its genre, the poliziotteschi, it's a highly effective piece. With Barbara Bouchet, Mario Adorf (way over the top) and Frank Wolff.  

Monday, August 21, 2017

Pardners (1956)

The son (Jerry Lewis) of a wealthy shipping magnate (Agnes Moorehead) runs off with a cowboy (Dean Martin) to achieve his dream of living life in the West. But the devious leader (John Baragrey) of a gang of masked bandits arranges for the greenhorn to become the town's new sheriff. Directed by Norman Taurog, this is a very loose remake of RHYTHM ON THE RANGE (1936), a Bing Crosby film also directed by Taurog. It follows the Martin & Lewis formula pretty tightly with Lewis providing the laughs and Martin the tunes although the best number in the film Buckskin Beauty is performed by Lewis, who passed away this week. This may not be the strongest of Lewis's vehicles but he and Martin's chemistry go a long way in keeping the high spirits that propel the movie forward. Lewis was one of the trues comic geniuses of 20th century cinema and he'll be missed. With Agnes Moorehead, who plays both Lewis's wife and mother, Lori Nelson, Jeff Morrow, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, Jackie Loughery and Lon Chaney Jr.   

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ingrid Goes West (2017)

A mentally unstable woman (Aubrey Plaza) is released from a mental health facility after attacking a social media friend (Meredith Hagner) on her wedding day. When she discovers an Instagram celebrity (Elizabeth Olsen) with a seemingly trendy and fashionable life out in Los Angeles, she moves to L.A. and inveigles herself into the woman's life. So when a psychotic stalker hooks up with a narcissistic shallow L.A. media celebrity, it's only a matter of time before the shit hits the fan! Produced by Plaza (best known for PARKS AND RECREATION) and directed by Matt Spicer. This black comedy puts the spotlight on the social media generation. The people who have their Iphones attached to their hand and check messages every 5 minutes and even sleep with their phones. The ones who validate their lives by having thousands of "followers" and "going viral". Plaza's Ingrid is a hybrid of Travis Bickle and Adele H. She's psychotic but you can't help but feel her pain. The film is funny but the laughter often sticks in your craw. I'll be interested in others take on the film's ending which some might take as irony or even a happy ending. For me, it put the film in horror movie category. A monster has been unleashed. With O'Shea Jackson Jr. as Plaza's Batman obsessed landlord, Billy Magnussen and Wyatt Russell. 

Kurutta Kajitsu (aka Crazed Fruit) (1956)

During the summer, a group of bored and aimless young people drink, gamble, go boating and clubbing but the most innocent (Masahiko Tsugawa) of the group falls in love with a pretty young girl (Mie Kitahara), who's not quite who he thinks she is. Based on the novel by Shintaro Ishihara and directed by Ko Nakahira. This film was quite controversial in Japan when it opened because of its portrayal of the so called "Sun Tribe" youth culture. The young people in this film are of the post WWII generation who are unable to relate to the traditional Japanese culture of their parents. They justify their aimlessness by waiting for something to happen rather than actively participating in change. At its core, this is a coming of age story but Nakahira permeates the film with a sort of pessimism that reaches its apogee in the fatal finale. Kitahara's amoral femme fatale not only deceives her American husband (Harold Conway) but beds her innocent lover's older brother (Yujiro Ishihara) as well. Like Ray's REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, Nakahira's film captures youth on the cusp of change. I will say the movie has one of the worst scores I've ever heard (attributed to Masaru Sato and Toru Takemitsu), it sounds like music they would play at a Hawaiian luau. With Masumi Okada.  

Saturday, August 19, 2017

China Rose (1983)

When a Minnesota businessman (George C. Scott) travels to China in search of his son (Michael Biehn, THE TERMINATOR) who went missing during the Cultural Revolution in communist China. With the assistance of his translator and guide (Ali MacGraw), he tries to unravel the truth behind his son's disappearance. A standard mystery/adventure with few (if any) surprises, this made for television movie (although it apparently was released theatrically overseas) is harmless fodder. The Hong Kong and Macao locations bring a flavor of authenticity as well as color to the proceedings while Scott and MacGraw make for an unlikely coupling. With James Hong, Dennis Lill and David Snell.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Gaudi Afternoon (2001)

Set in Barcelona, a Spanish to English translator (Judy Davis) is approached by a mysterious woman (Marcia Gay Harden) from San Francisco and offered a large sum of money to help find her missing husband. Almost broke, she is unable to resist the large sum of money but she soon finds herself caught in a web of mistaken identities, double crosses and kidnapping among a group of lesbians, transsexuals, bisexuals and drag performers. Based on the award winning mystery novel by Barbara Wilson and directed by Susan Seidelman (DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN). This quirky off kilter movie would seem ideal fodder for Seidelman based on DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN but what the film really needed was Pedro Almodovar who would have given the movie the impudent wit and madcap nuttiness it needs. While I can appreciate the film's daring (for its day) gender bending politics, one doesn't get the feeling that Sieidelman loves her spirited misfits the way Almodovar does. The film's title seems to be a homonym. It identifies the architecture of Antoni Gaudi prevalent in Barcelona but also the films' gaudy characters. The cinematography of Josep M. Civit is quite handsome as is the film's main title sequence created by Juan Gatti. With Juliette Lewis, Lili Taylor, Christopher Bowen and Courtney Jines. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

City Lights (1931)

A happy go lucky tramp (Charlie Chaplin) meets a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill) who lives in poverty with her grandmother (Florence Lee). She mistakes him for a millionaire and he does nothing to dissuade her and when she needs an operation, he goes to work to get the money. I'm not Chaplin's biggest fan and I can see why some are not taken with him. That being said, this is Chaplin's masterpiece and considered by many one of the greatest films of all time and I won't disagree with them. Indeed, the film is highly regarded by Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, Woody Allen and Andrei Tarkovsky as one of the great films. This is Chaplin at his best, balancing pratfalls and pathos with equal dexterity. You may find yourself chuckling through out the movie but the film's final moments are among the most heartbreaking in all cinema. By 1931, talkies were in full force but Chaplin's insistence on making it a silent film didn't hurt the film at all as it was one of Chaplin's biggest hits. Even if Chaplin or silent cinema isn't your "thing", this should be mandatory viewing to anyone remotely interested in film. It's about as close to perfection as cinema gets. With Harry Myers as the drunken millionaire.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tom Horn (1980)

A famed but notorious scout and gunfighter (Steve McQueen) is hired by a cattleman's association to investigate and deter cattle rustling. But when he becomes too good at the job he was hired to do, the association decides to cut ties with him. Based on the writings of the real Tom Horn and directed by William Wiard (mostly known for his TV episodic work), this underrated western is a sparse but straightforward film. Beautifully shot in earth tones (not a splash of red, yellow or green) by John Alonzo (CHINATOWN) in Arizona locations. The character of Tom Horn is a perfect fit for Steve McQueen in one of his last film roles. But as written, the character is problematic. He seems so complicit in his own destruction that it's hard to be sympathetic. Historically, whether he was guilty of the murder for which he was hung is still debated. The film itself is only slightly ambiguous but seems to favor the "not guilty" charge. That the film works is surprising considering its troubled history. It went through 3 directors (including Don Siegel) before Wiard was brought in to finish the film. With a deglamorized Linda Evans in her best performance as a frontier schoolmarm, Richard Farnsworth, Billy Green Bush, Slim Pickens and Elisha Cook.    

Brand (1959)

A religious fanatic (Patrick McGoohan) returns to the Norwegian mountains of his childhood where he becomes the village priest. But he is a hard unforgiving man who believes in the often cold and cruel God of the Old Testament and he places near impossible responsibility on his parishioners and even his own wife (Dilys Hamlett). Based on the play by Henrik Ibsen and directed by Michael Elliott. If an artist, like Ibsen, is great then it stands to reason that therefore everything he writes is great. But BRAND gives rise to the notion that even great writers have their off days/plays. I'll concede that BRAND probably reads better on the page than when played out on stage where it's a rather dull play with ideas on God and faith and one's duty to God are bantered about to the point of exhaustion. It doesn't help that McGoohan's performance is a really bad imitation of Richard Burton and he's played or at least comes off very unsympathetically. With Patrick Wymark and Peter Sallis.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

From Here To Eternity (2014)

Set in a 1941 army base in Hawaii in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. A career Sergeant (Darius Campbell) falls in love with his Captain's (Martin Marquez) wife (Rebecca Thornhill) and a private (Robert Lonsdale) fall in love with a prostitute (Siubhan Harrison) who works in a Waikiki brothel. Directed by Tamara Harvey, this musical is based on the James Jones novel, not the 1953 film adaptation. The idea of a musical version of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY sounds ghastly but it's not bad at all though wildly uneven. The musical restores the brothel and the prostitutes, the venereal disease and the gay sex in the military that were all removed from the 1953 film. The songs (music by Stuart Brayson and lyrics by EVITA's Tim Rice) are a mixed lot but generally weak. The film is basically a straight on filmed play performance. The two male leads have strong voices but are weak actors while the 2 leading ladies fortunately are strong in both departments. The fifth major character Maggio (Ryan Sampson) is not a singer so he talk/sings his way thru his big number but he's a strong actor so he pulls it off. With the addition of the songs, it leaves very little room for in depth characterization so it helps if you're familiar with the novel or the 1953 movie. The choreography by Javier De Frutos is uneven. The numbers with the soldiers looks like their doing calisthenics rather than dancing but the big number in the brothel with the hookers is a dance highlight. I think the material might have played smoother as an opera rather than as a musical. The Pearl Harbor attack is done with slow motion and lighting and looks rather tacky and the final number sounds a LES MISERABLES reject.   

Ride In The Whirlwind (1966)

Three drifters (Jack Nicholson, Cameron Mitchell, Tom Filer) wander into the hideout of a group of stagecoach robbers by chance. When the law comes to take the robbers in, they assume the drifters are part of the gang and when they escape, they are pursued as outlaws. Directed by Monte Hellman from a screenplay by Nicholson, this western was shot back to back with Hellman's THE SHOOTING which had some of the same cast. Like that existential western, this one is equally fatalistic. The cowboys here are victims of circumstance by being in the wrong place at the wrong time which seals their fate. Beautifully shot in Utah by Gregory Sandor (De Palma's SISTERS), the film's rich look belies the film's minimal budget restrictions. Never released theatrically in the U.S. (it went straight to TV), it was released in Europe where it was a hit and played in Paris for six months. It has since moved from cult status to a critically acclaimed western. With Millie Perkins, Harry Dean Stanton, George Mitchell, Rupert Crosse and Katherine Squire.  

Monday, August 14, 2017

Greenwich Village (1944)

A young composer (Don Ameche) from Kansas arrives in 1922 Greenwich Village with the hopes of having his concerto performed. But when he falls in love with a nightclub singer (Vivian Blaine), the club's owner (William Bendix) isn't pleased since he has designs on her himself. Directed by Walter Lang (THE KING AND I), this Technicolor piece of cinematic cotton candy should be more fun than it its. It's creaky storyline could be forgiven if the musical numbers were good but they're a dull lot. Not even Carmen Miranda in her platform heels and fruit salad headgear can liven things up. The movie's chief asset is Leon Shamroy's (PLANET OF THE APES) eye popping three strip Technicolor lensing. Three notable names make their feature film debut here: Judy Holliday, Betty Comden and Adolph Green but their parts have all been cut out of the film leaving them briefly seen in a party scene. With Felix Bressart and B.S. Pully, who manages to get a few laughs. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1972)

A wealthy widow (Shelley Winters) hosts an annual Christmas party for the local orphanage at her mansion. But this Christmas, she becomes taken with a little girl (Chloe Franks, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC) who resembles her deceased daughter. This does not please the girl's brother (Mark Lester, OLIVER). Directed by Curtis Harrington, this is an updating of the fairy tale HANSEL AND GRETEL. Only this one has a twist. Instead of being poor little innocents, the children are ungrateful brats who are also murderers, liars and thieves (they steal the widow's jewelry). This has the effect (at least for me) of making the mentally unhinged "witch" perversely sympathetic! Winters is deliciously over the top here which livens up the movie considerably. Has anyone overacted by simply eating an apple before? Harrington appears to encourage the self knowing humor whenever possible but never quite crossing over into "camp". Rather fun! With Ralph Richardson, Hugh Griffith, Lionel Jeffries, Rosalie Crutchley, Pat Heywood and Michael Gothard.

The Glass Castle (2017)

In 1989 Manhattan, a magazine journalist (Brie Larson) reflects on her childhood and growing up with irresponsible counter culture parents (Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts). Growing up in poverty, going hungry and the parents skipping town every time the bill collectors are after them. Based on the autobiographical book by Jeannette Walls and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. I haven't read Walls' non fiction book but I suspect it's richer in detail and complexity than the film we're given. There's a lot to admire in Cretton's film especially the quality of the acting. But Walls' journey to forgiveness of her father (who's an alcoholic abuser) just seems to come so easily in the film. One moment she's outraged and refuses to ever see him again and suddenly we're in an episode of THE WALTONS. It's not so easy to overlook the abuse and near psychotic behavior of Harrelson's father and to a far lesser extent Watts' mother. So when the movie goes all Oprah on us, there's a certain amount of resentment. It's not fair of me to judge a life I've never lived through but it's the film maker's responsibility to get me to empathize. I didn't. Still, there's no denying the emotional power of many of the scenes in the film and it's worth seeing for the actors if nothing else. With Max Greenfield and Ella Anderson and Chandler Head playing the younger versions of Larson. 

Madame de... (aka The Earrings Of Madame de...) (1953)

The wife (Danielle Darrieux) of a French aristocrat (Charles Boyer) has debts to pay because of her spending. Without telling her husband, she sells an expensive pair of diamond earrings that her husband gave her to relieve her debts. But those earrings will return to her and play a pivotal part in her destruction. Based on the novel by Leveque de Vilmorin and directed by Max Ophuls, this is one of the most exquisite pieces of cinema. While Ophuls' technique has never been more brilliantly on display (the ball montage designating the passage of time is remarkable), this is not just a visual film. Like his previous masterpiece LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN, Ophuls delves into an obsessive love that literally kills its heroine. Darrieux's Madame de is a heartbreaking creature, a shallow pretty thing completely unprepared for the flood of passion that envelops her to the point of no return. All three leads are superb. Vittorio De Sica's performance as her lover reminds us that not only was he one of cinema's great directors but an excellent actor too. With Jean Debucourt, Mireille Perrey and Lia De Leo.  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Between Heaven And Hell (1956)

It's 1945 during WWII and on a remote Pacific island, a sergeant (Robert Wagner) who has been busted to a private for assaulting an officer reflects on his life before the war. Based on the novel by Francis Gwaltney and directed by Richard Fleischer (THE VIKINGS). As a war movie, it's decent enough without ever rising to anything special but there are two interesting aspects of the film, one of which is underdeveloped. The flashback sequences to Wagner's life before the war as a wealthy Southern cotton farmer who exploits his sharecroppers against his wife's (Terry Moore) wishes suggests something more complicated than we're given here. It seems more like superficial exposition than anything and else and indeed, although second billed Terry Moore's role consists of very little screen time. The most interesting portion of the film involves Broderick Crawford in the film's best performance as a possibly psychotic and definitely paranoid Army Captain. The film's portrait of army life is hardly jingoistic and often unflattering which sets it off from most routine WII war flicks. The Oscar nominated underscore is by Hugo Friedhofer. With Buddy Ebsen (terrible!), Robert Keith, Brad Dexter, Mark Damon, Frank Gorshin, Skip Homeier and Ken Clark. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Go Naked In The World (1961)

Returning home after a stint in the Army, a young man (Anthony Franciosa) is trying to move out of the shadow of his domineering Greek father (Ernest Borgnine). He falls in love with a beautiful woman (Gina Lollobrigida), who at first discourages his attention. What he doesn't know is that she's one of Manhattan's highest paid call girls! Based on the novel by Tom T. Chamales and directed by Ranald MacDougall, this is essentially an updated version of CAMILLE. While it's quite blunt and frank (for its day) about Lollobrigida's profession, this is still 1961 Hollywood. You can't be a whore and live and although she doesn't die of consumption like Garbo in the 1936 film, she's still punished by death. Funny how a hooker's clients are never punished in these movies. Sexual frankness aside, it doesn't do the movie much good as the dialog is dreadful. Even taking that into account, there's no accounting for Borgnine's awful performance! For fans of Lollobrigida, she looks stunning in her Helen Rose creations and though that's a meager asset, it's something at least. With Luana Patten, Will Kuluva and Nancy R. Pollock.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

White Woman (1933)

Set in Malaya, after her husband commits suicide under mysterious circumstances, a woman (Carole Lombard) is shunned by the British community. When she resorts to singing in a "native" nightclub in order to support herself, the white community insists she be deported. She agrees to marry a plantation owner (Charles Laughton) just to escape their persecution. But when he turns out to be a sadistic madman, things grow worse. Based on the play HANGMAN'S WHIP by Norman Reilly Raine and Frank Butler and directed by Stuart Walker. This pre-code potboiler is one of those movies where the tropic nights are humid and native drums beat all night long while "forbidden" love flourishes. It all sounds more fun than it actually is. It's weird but Laughton is relatively restrained here yet he still seems to be overacting! The most interesting character is the crude plantation overseer played by Charles Bickford who still manages to be appealing. This being a pre-code, the violence (decapitations, monkeys shot to death) is a bit more in your face than other films of the 30s. With Kent Taylor, Percy Kilbride (the most sympathetic character in the film), Ethel Griffies and Marc Lawrence.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Road To Rio (1947)

Two out of work musicians (Bing Crosby, Bob Hope) stowaway on a cruise liner going to Rio De Janeiro in Brazil. On board, they meet a young woman (Dorothy Lamour) who is being forced to marry the brother (George Meeker) of her guardian (Gale Sondergaard). Directed by Norman Z. McLeod, this was the last Crosby/Hope/Lamour Road picture of the 1940s and there would be only two more (in 1952 and 1962). This is one of the best ones with some of Crosby and Hope's best gags and routines. If you're a fan of the series, you've probably already seen it and if you're not, if given half a chance you're likely to fall under its featherbrained spell. The supporting cast is good notably Gale Sondergaard at her villainess best and there's a trio of goofballs by name of the Wiere Brothers. There also several musical numbers which are painless including a duet between Crosby and The Andrews Sisters. With Frank Faylen, Joseph Vitale and Jerry Colonna.  

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Follies In Concert (1986)

A group of showgirls from the Weismann Follies in the 1940s reunite in the 1970s. But there are ghosts from the past in the theater that will take them back and confront their younger selves. Originally produced in 1971 where it was a critical success but not a financial one, Stephen Sondheim's musical may well be his masterpiece. In 1985, a staged concert of his musical directed by Herbert Ross (STEEL MAGNOLIAS) has taken on near legendary proportions. As thrilling as this document is of that night, it's frustrating because it's not complete. We're given bits and pieces of the production and even some of the full length numbers are abbreviated for the documentary. The first half is devoted to the rehearsals, the actors discuss the show and we see them in rehearsal. The second half is devoted to the concert itself. And what performers! The great Barbara Cook (who died this week) is a heartbreaking Sally and Elaine Stritch, whose upstaging of the other performers becomes irritating, kills it with her rendition of Broadway Baby. I'm grateful for this archival record of the production but it's such a teaser making us hungry to see it all! The excellent cast includes Lee Remick, Carol Burnett, George Hearn, Phyllis Newman, Adolph Green, Betty Comden, Andre Gregory and Liliane Montevecchi. 

The Mysterious Lady (1928)

A Captain (Conrad Nagel) in the German army falls under the spell of a Russian seductress (Greta Garbo). They fall in love but it is only later that he discovers she is spy for the Russian government and when she steals secret plans from him, he is declared a traitor and sent to prison. Based on the novel WAR IN THE DARK by Ludwig Wolff and directed by Fred Niblo (1925's BEN-HUR). Ah, the divine Garbo! One of the great faces in cinema history. This romantic spy drama isn't one of Garbo's best vehicles but it's enough to bathe in her extraordinary presence and star power which is in full display here. She more than makes up for the lump that is Conrad Nagel. The print that I saw had a marvelous score by Vivek Maddala which only accentuates how important music is to silent cinema. With Gustav von Seyffertitz.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Migrants (1974)

A family of migrant workers goes where the work is. Picking crops and eking out a living that allows them to exist and nothing more. The son (Ron Howard) hopes for something more but everything seems against him. Based on a story by Tennessee Williams and adapted by the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lanford Wilson (FIFTH OF JULY) and directed by Tom Gries (WILL PENNY). This is a wonderful film! Simply told without sentiment and an eye that allows us to view these disenfranchised people with empathy. Anchored by a superb performance by Cloris Leachman as the family's matriarch. Without any dialog at all, her ravaged face saying so much more about these folks than all of the cloying twaddle of Ford's THE GRAPES OF WRATH and her final angry outburst is heartbreaking and you'll never forget David Clennon's death scene. Definitely worth seeking out. With Sissy Spacek, Cindy Williams, Ed Lauter (unexpectedly weak), Claudia McNeil and Brad Sullivan.  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Earth Girls Are Easy (1989)

Three furry multi colored aliens: blue (Jeff Goldblum), orange (Jim Carrey) and green (Damon Wayans) have their spaceship crash in a pool in the California's San Fernando Valley. The three are taken under the wing of the flighty manicurist (Geena Davis) who lives in the house with the pool. Directed by Julien Temple (ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS), this delightful musical comedy has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek and while at times it seems all over the map, its silliness is hard to resist. Its failure at the box office suggests audiences weren't quite sure what they were getting but the film has developed a strong cult following. It's also a chance to see Jim Carrey and Daman Wayans exercising their comedy chops shortly before they became big name Hollywood players. It's absurd but that's part of its charm. The film's musical numbers are clearly influenced by the style of the music videos then constantly rotating on MTV. With Julie Brown, Michael McKean, Charles Rocket and L.A. phenomenon Angelyne (those outside of L.A. may not know who she is/was).

Boccaccio 70 (1962)

An anthology of four short films by four different directors: 1) A young married couple (Marisa Solinas, Germano Gilioli) must keep their marriage a secret in order to keep their jobs. Directed by Mario Monicelli (BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET). 2) The self appointed judge of public morality (Peppino De Filippo) is outraged when a sexy billboard of Anita Ekberg is put up in front of his building. Directed by Federico Fellini. 3) After her husband (Tomas Milian) is caught in a public scandal involving call girls, his wife (Romy Schneider) devises her own revenge. Directed by Luchino Visconti. 4) In order to help out a friend who owes taxes, a statuesque beauty (Sophia Loren) offers her body in a raffle. Directed by Vittorio De Sica. The first segment was originally cut from the release print but has been restored which pushes the movie's running time past the three hour mark! It's actually the best of the bunch. The other three feel extended beyond their welcome with the Visconti segment particularly chatty without much of a payoff. Not among their directors best work but there are worse ways of spending one's time than with Loren, Ekberg and Schneider at their most beautiful.

Detroit (2017)

In 1967 Detroit, riots ensued when police raided an illegal after hours club in a black neighborhood. At the height of the riots, police invade a local motel where ten black men and two white women are beaten and terrorized by the police with three of the black men murdered. After the one-two punch of THE HURT LOCKER and ZERO DARK THIRTY, I'll concede it's three in a row for director Kathryn Bigelow but this is by far the weakest of the three. It couldn't be more timely what with aggressive police tactics toward citizens (specifically African Americans) in the headlines for the past few years. It starts off with a bang in a semi documentary style setting up the background but once the storyline reaches the motel, its predictability causes it to lose steam. I think a major case of casting deflates the power of this sequence. Will Poulter who plays the racist cop in charge of the motel siege has, to put it bluntly, the face of a serial killer. He looks psychotic from our first view of him. If the role had been played by an actor with a more "normal" face, it would have added the necessary power to keep us off our balance. Instead, it's "Oh yeah, he's going to go all psycho on everyone here!". At 2 1/2 hours, the film is way overlong and frankly, we could have done without the entire courtroom section and Algee Smith's church moment. An epilogue would have sufficed. Outside of Poulter, the acting is excellent including John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Jacob Latimore, Jason Mitchell, Hannah Murray and Kaitlyn Dever.  

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Valley Of Gwangi (1969)

In turn of the century Mexico, a carnival stuntman (James Franciscus), a paleontologist (Laurence Naismith), a cowgirl (Gila Golan) and her manager (Richard Carlson) stumble across a hidden valley where long thought extinct creatures still survive. When they see a Tyrannosaurus, their first thought is to capture it and turn it into a sideshow at their traveling rodeo. Directed by Jim O'Connolly, this lacks the magic of the previous Ray Harryhausen/Charles H. Schneer collaborations like 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS because the lack of mythological fantasy elements. However, it's a still an entertaining action film elevated by Harryhausen's superior creature effects. In films like this, where the creature is kidnapped by humans, I have no sympathy for the humans when the creature turns and gobbles them up. The film has a fiery finale but I felt sorry for the creature rather than satisfaction that he had been destroyed. The characters are a greedy and annoying lot anyway. There's a thrilling underscore by Jerome Moross (THE BIG COUNTRY). With Gustavo Rojo and Freda Jackson.

Sylvia (2003)

The story of the troubled American poet Sylvia Plath (Gwyneth Paltrow) from 1956 when she meets the poet Ted Hughes (Daniel Craig) who she would marry to her eventual suicide in 1963. Directed by Christine Jeffs, the film bypasses many of the mistakes made by movie bios who attempt to cram an entire life in two hours of film. Instead, it concentrates on an 8 year period focusing in on her relationship with Hughes and the slow deterioration of her psyche. Paltrow is very good here in a subtle performance of a slow descent into madness, no "snake pit" histrionics here. The film could have used more of Plath the writer, we don't get as much sense of the poet and her passion for poetry as we should. Granted that may not be as cinematic as going crazy but it would have helped us understand Plath more. 3 years before becoming James Bond, Craig is in fine form as the poet unable to cope with his wife's illness. There's a nice underscore by Gabriel Yared. With Blythe Danner, Michael Gambon and Jared Harris. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Sheriff Of Fractured Jaw (1958)

To avoid his uncle's (Robert Morley) interference, a mild mannered British gentleman (Kenneth More) travels to the American West to sell guns to the local population. Instead, he finds himself mistaken for a gunslinger and appointed as the sheriff in order to stop a range war between two feuding cattle ranchers. Directed by Raoul Walsh, this wan comedy western has a big problem ..... it's not funny! The screenplay could have used a little more wit or at least, poked a little fun at the genre. With a little tweaking, it could have played out as a straight western and it might have played better that way. Kenneth More and a miscast Jayne Mansfield have zero chemistry in roles that Bob Hope and Jane Russell could have sailed through easily. The movie was filmed in Spain, Otto Heller( PEEPING TOM) did the cinematography, but it may as well have been shot on the Fox back lot for all the advantage it makes of the location. Mansfield sings three songs but her singing voice is dubbed by Connie Francis. Originally intended as a vehicle for Clifton Webb. With Henry Hull, Bruce Cabot and William Campbell.   

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What Every Woman Knows (1934)

Set in Scotland, a father (David Torrence) and his two sons (Donald Crisp, Dudley Digges) are concerned that their homely daughter/sister (Helen Hayes) will end up a spinster since she's still unmarried at the age of 27. To this end, they propose to finance a young student's (Brian Aherne) education if he agrees to marry the plain Jane, six years his senior. But is a business arrangement the good basis for a marriage? Based on the 1908 play by J.M. Barrie (PETER PAN) and directed by Gregory La Cava (STAGE DOOR). The handsome and robust Aherne and the mousy and delicate Hayes (who had played the part on Broadway 8 years earlier) embody their roles perfectly. The movie plays out like a filmed play without being overly stage bound. But the premise is so archaic as to be uncomfortable. It's an era when a woman had no say in her fate which was decided by men, first her father then her husband, when a woman lived through her husband rather than her own accomplishments although the film's argument is that behind every successful man is the woman who got him there. If you can get past all that, the performers are agreeable and there's a certain pleasurable quaintness to the whole project although I suspect even in 1934 it seemed old fashioned. With Madge Evans as the other woman, Lucile Watson and Henry Stephenson. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Silkwood (1983)

A worker (Meryl Streep) at a nuclear facility in Oklahoma suspects that the company's practices of cutting corners and falsifying documents are endangering the health and safety of its workers. When she becomes a union activist, she finds herself unpopular with the company and many of its employees. Inspired by the life of Karen Silkwood, who died under mysterious circumstances amid much speculation that her death in an auto crash was no accident. Directed by Mike Nichols, the screenplay by Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen doesn't attempt to make Silkwood a Joan of Arc like heroine but presents her warts (and there are a lot of warts) and all as a highly flawed and often irritating woman. Like the political films of Costa-Gavras, Nichols doesn't preach at you but instead gives us the message while still entertaining us. Fortunately, the domestic scenes which usually drag a movie like this down are excellent and allows Streep to flesh out Silkwood even more. But it's not all Streep's show, Kurt Russell as her live in boyfriend and Cher as her lesbian roommate have opportunities to create strong characters on their own. The supporting cast is crammed with excellent actors including Craig T. Nelson, Diana Scarwid, Fred Ward, Tess Harper, David Strathairn, Josef Sommer, Ron Silver, Bruce McGill, Will Patton and E. Katherine Kerr.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Coney Island (1943)

Set in turn of the (20th) century New York, two rivals (George Montgomery, Cesar Romero) cross and double cross each other in the attempt to win the love of a brash entertainer (Betty Grable). Directed by Walter Lang (THE KING AND I), this was one of Grable's biggest hits. But I've never cared much for Grable's period musicals like this one and THE DOLLY SISTERS. I've always preferred her in her contemporary ones like WEEKEND IN HAVANA or MOON OVER MIAMI. Grable gets to act a bit more than in her usual fluff but she's saddled with the stodgy George Montgomery (I guess John Payne wasn't available). I was hoping for a more realistic bittersweet ending than we're given but this is a 1940s Technicolor Betty Grable musical, not LA LA LAND or UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG so we get the dopey happy ending which just doesn't feel right. As for the musical numbers, they're okay with only two standing out. One of them, a jazz number, is uncomfortable with the male dancers in blackface and Grable in a black wig and dark make up as a light skinned "negress". But the splashy finale is fine. The choreography is by Hermes Pan. With Phil Silvers, Charles Winninger and Phyllis Kennedy.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Frogs (1972)

Set in the bayous of Florida, a photographer (Sam Elliott) finds himself inadvertently spending the 4th of July with the wealthy family of a controlling wheelchair bound patriarch (Ray Milland). But something very strange is happening. The wildlife (frogs, snakes, lizards, turtles, gators etc.) are turning deadly and attacking the humans in the area. Directed by George McCowan, this is one of the first of the so-called "eco-horror" films where animals and/or nature turn against man for his sins against the environment. For a horror film, it's incredibly slow moving and the minimalist electronic score by Les Baxter is no help in generating suspense. Most of the humans are unlikable so you don't feel anything when they're attacked and killed. Still, if you're made uncomfortable by creepy crawlies (as I am), there is plenty of close up footage to make your skin crawl. Milland doesn't have much to do except scowl but the young Sam Elliott (without facial hair) makes for an ingratiating hero. The rest of the cast includes Joan Van Ark, Adam Roarke, Judy Pace, Mae Mercer, Hollis Irving and Nicholas Cortland. 

The Betsy (1978)

The aging head (Laurence Olivier) of an automobile conglomerate wants one more opportunity at greatness with a revolutionary new car named after his granddaughter (Kathleen Beller). However, his grandson (Robert Duvall) who is the president of the company vehemently opposes the idea as not financially sound. The bad blood between the two will play out in blackmail, murder and divided loyalties. Based on the novel by that purveyor of trash Harold Robbins (THE CARPETBAGGERS) and directed by Daniel Petrie (FORT APACHE THE BRONX). The film goes back and forth between the 1930s and the 1970s with enough material crammed in to make a mini-series. This is one of Olivier's late life "paycheck" movies and he's the reason to see the movie. He hams it up shamefully (and more full of life than the rest of the cast) but he seems to be having such a good time that it's infectious. Petrie is too tasteful for a project like this, it could have used a little more flash. Curiously, the cinematography by Mario Tosi (CARRIE) is all soft focus as if filmed through a nylon stocking. I could see why perhaps for the 1930s sequence where Olivier is supposed to be 40 years younger but the whole movie is shot that way. There's a lovely score by John Barry. The impressive cast includes Tommy Lee Jones, Katharine Ross, Jane Alexander, Joseph Wiseman, Lesley Anne Down, Edward Herrmann, Inga Swenson, Whitney Blake and Paul Rudd (no, not that one!).

Sunday, July 30, 2017

L'Atalante (1934)

After their wedding, a young barge captain (Jean Dast) and his new bride (Dita Parlo) live on his barge along with his first mate (Michel Simon) and cabin boy (Louis Lefebvre). But she soon tires of life on the river and dreams of Paris. The only full length feature film by Jean Vigo (ZERO FOR CONDUCT) is a one of a kind treat. Though Vigo died at the age of 29 the year L'ATALANTE was released, he is often credited with establishing poetic realism in the 1930s and a major influence on the French "new wave" of the 1950s and 60s. Vigo puts aside plot in favor of a dream like romance (though hardly sentimental) where the lovers connect, disengage and connect again while their "fairy godmother" turns out to be the cat loving tattooed reprobate (and scene stealing) Michel Simon who makes everything right again. The film feels impulsive and impromptu rather than planned out and still fresh today. It appears frequently on greatest films lists and justifiably so.  

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Scarface Mob (1959)

In 1929 Chicago, a Federal agent (Robert Stack) forms an elite squad of incorruptible agents in order to bring down Al Capone's (Neville Brand) bootleg empire. Based on the non fiction book THE UNTOUCHABLES by Elliot Ness and Oscar Fraley and directed by Phil Karlson (KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL). Originally airing as a two part event on the Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, the two parts were seamlessly edited together and released to theaters and taking advantage of the medium allowed some partial nudity (Barbara Nichols as a stripper) that was not allowed for the TV showing. This spawned the TV series THE UNTOUCHABLES with Stack reprising his role as Elliot Ness but discarding the wife (Pat Crowley) he has in this movie (and in his real life). It's a compact tight little film with Phil Karlson, an expert hand at these gritty crime dramas, not shying away from the brutality and crudeness of this violent era in America's history. Stack as Ness even gets to show some emotion, something he rarely showed on the TV series. With Keenan Wynn, Bill Williams, Joe Mantell, Bruce Gordon, Paul Picerni, John Hoyt, Frank DeKova and James Westerfield.  

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Kind Of Loving (1962)

A young draughtsman (Alan Bates) has some ambition but when he gets a girl (June Ritchie) pregnant, they marry. Married life takes its toll especially since they are forced to live with her mother (Thora Hird), the mother in law from Hell. Based on the novel by Stan Barstow and directed by John Schlesinger (SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY). Part of the "kitchen sink" British New Wave cinema of the 1960s, this is a beautifully done slice of life drama. One can't help but feel sorry for the two protagonists who live in an era when one simply had to get married if the girl got pregnant, even if they weren't suited for each other. We can tell at the very beginning that they're wrong for each other, we even see him losing interest in her. The film's bleakly hopeful resolution conjures up images of their future: nagging wife, philandering husband and the slowly creeping contempt for each other. Perhaps it's the cynic in me but I can't see a happily ever after rose covered cottage life for them. Bates is superb, you can read every emotion on his face without his saying anything and Ritchie is also good as the girl who has no real aim in life except to get married. The striking B&W lensing is by Denys N. Coop (THIS SPORTING LIFE).  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

La Dama Rossa Uccide Sette Volte (aka The Red Queen Kills Seven Times) (1972)

A grandfather (Rudolf Schundler) tells his two little granddaughters the legend of the Red Queen who returns from the dead every 100 years to kill seven people and the seventh is always a direct descendant of the Red Queen ..... like them! 14 years later, the grandfather dies under mysterious circumstances and a woman in a red cloak is seen fleeing the castle! Six more deaths to go! Co-written and directed by Emilio Miraglia, this is a stylish entertainment and if you're a fan of the giallo, this should be pleasing. Even if you're not a fan of the genre, it's a more than decent murder mystery and if the solution is fairly predictable, the getting there is half the fun! The film is set in the world of fashion which allows a bevy of beauties to parade before the camera but with only Barbara Bouchet (playing one of the surviving Red Queen's descendants) and Sybil Danning doing the nudity honors. Also nice is that the killings are divided about equally between male and female so that it's not all about killing women. A big shout out to Alberto Spagnoli's cinematography and Bruno Nicolai's Morricone-ish underscore. With Ugo Pagliai, Marina Malfatti, Marino Mase, Pia Giancaro and Nino Korda.    

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Ghosts (1987)

A widow (Judi Dench) is about to dedicate an orphanage in her husband's name and her son (Kenneth Branagh) has come home for the ceremonies. But he brings a horrible secret shame with him and the phrase the sins of the father are visited upon the children becomes a terrible reality. Based on the play by Henrik Ibsen. While perhaps not as well known as some of Ibsen's more popular works like HEDDA GABLER and A DOLL'S HOUSE, GHOSTS caused a sensation when first publicly performed in 1882 and was even banned in London (the play had to be performed "privately"). The play concerned itself with incest, venereal disease, euthanasia, out of wedlock children, adultery and religious hypocrisy. Frankly, it's still a bit of a shocker even today. Directed by Elijah Moshinsky, this is an excellent production with a spectacular performance by Dench. I've often complained how "dark" so many films are, however in this case, the oppressive darkness is pivotal and often referred to. With Natasha Richardson, Michael Gambon and Freddie Jones. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Wind River (2017)

As a furious ice storm approaches, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent (Jeremy Renner) discovers the body of an Indian girl (Kelsey Chow) who has been beaten and raped. An inexperienced FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) is sent to investigate but she finds herself in over her head. Together, they will find themselves drawn into the darkness of this shocking crime. Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan in his feature directorial debut. This is an incredibly intense and dark thriller, perhaps the closest I can compare it to is SILENCE OF THE LAMBS though it never achieves that level of greatness. While clearly Sheridan has an agenda (the marginalization of the Native American), he doesn't hammer you over the head with it. Both Renner and Olsen take well written parts and amp up the characters by investing them with more than is on the written page. As expected from the pen of Sheridan, who wrote HELL OR HIGH WATER and SICARIO, there will be carnage but it's not overdone. The excellent underscore is by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES). Highly recommended. With Graham Greene (excellent), Gil Birmingham and Jon Bernthal.

Bloodhounds Of Broadway (1952)

A New York bookie (Scott Brady) and his partner (Wally Vernon) go on the lam when they are subpoenaed by a crime commission investigating  organized crime. While hiding out in Georgia, they find a young orphan (Mitzi Gaynor) and take her under their wing when they return to New York which doesn't make the bookie's mistress (Marguerite Chapman) very happy. Loosely based on a short story by Damon Runyon and directed by Harmon Jones. This minor Fox musical is actually rather sweet. There's not much Runyon in it but it's inoffensive and the musical numbers are pretty good thanks to Robert Sidney's choreography. Gaynor is suitably perky and Brady brings his usual masculine presence in the leads but it's two supporting players who steal the film. Wally Vernon as Brady's hypochondriac partner and Mitzi Green as his sister. Fluff but amiable, you don't need to seek it out but if you come across it, you might just enjoy it. With Michael O'Shea, Charles Bronson, Mary Wickes and Timothy Carey.

Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987)

A struggling writer (Ryan O'Neal) living off a rich wife (Debra Stipe) wakes up from a killer of a hangover with no memory of the night before. But when he finds blood all over the front seat of the car, he knows he better find out and quick. Directed by Norman Mailer and based on his novel of the same name and adapted for the screen with uncredited help from Robert Towne (CHINATOWN). Mailer's loopy black comedy still hasn't received its due. This is one insane movie. Granted, it's misogynistic, homophobic and often in bad taste (one of the film's biggest laughs comes from the after effects of a character's major stroke) and basically a nasty piece of goods. There are NO likable characters in the entire movie unless you count the poor dog that gets stabbed to death. The dialog is faux Raymond Chandler/Mickey Spillane "tough guy" speak and frequently hilarious. In fact, the film is filled with quotable dialog that have you scratching your head ("I may be a physical coward but I have death guts"). Its quirky, off the wall sensibility won't work if you attempt to take it seriously (even Pauline Kael didn't get it). I mean Pomp And Circumstance is playing on the soundtrack when they're dumping dead bodies in the ocean, how could you not get it? One could even call it Lynchian except that Mailer lacks Lynch's talent for the bizarre. But it's good enough. The score is by Angelo Badalamenti (TWIN PEAKS). With Isabella Rossellini, Wings Hauser (the one bad performance in the film, he doesn't seem in on the joke), John Bedford Lloyd, Frances Fisher, Penn Jillette and Mailer's in joke, legendary movie "tough guy" Lawrence Tierney as O'Neal's dying father.   

Monday, July 24, 2017

Woman On The Run (1950)

After he witnesses a murder, a man (Ross Elliott) goes on the run. Since he is the only one who can identify the killer, the police focus on his wife (Ann Sheridan) in the hopes she can lead them to him. Based on a magazine short story by Sylvia Tate entitled MAN ON THE RUN and directed by Norman Foster (JOURNEY INTO FEAR). This minor film noir is unique in its married protagonists. An unhappily married couple on the verge of divorce, Sheridan's wife discovers that she really doesn't know her husband at all and her preconceptions of him have been damaging to their relationship. The film is also abundant in sardonic humor which offsets the race against time to find the husband before the killer finds him. Midway through the movie, the audience is alerted to the identity of the murderer which adds to the tension since we know who the killer is but the film's characters don't. The majority of the film was shot in San Francisco and the director of cinematography Hal Mohr (THE WILD ONE) does a bang up job of shooting the city in striking B&W images though L.A. stands in for San Francisco in a couple of major scenes. I'm not sure why the film makers thought the rollercoaster finale was a good idea. While it's very cinematic, it still seems arbitrary rather than organic. With Dennis O'Keefe as a reporter, Robert Keith, John Qualen, Joan Shawlee, Reiko Sato and Victor Sen Young.  

Journey Into Fear (1943)

An American engineer (Joseph Cotten) and his wife (Ruth Warrick) are traveling through Turkey when they stopover in Istanbul where they are met by the Turkish representative (Everett Sloane) of the engineer's U.S. company. When the Turkish employee takes the American to a nightclub, a murder takes place and suddenly international intrigue has the American on the run trying to save his skin! Based on the novel by Eric Ambler and adapted for the screen by Cotten and directed by Norman Foster. A mess of a movie and quite often incoherent but still entertaining nonetheless. Orson Welles, who plays a Turkish policeman, co-wrote the screenplay with Cotten although he's not credited and reputedly had a hand in the direction of some scenes although the official credit goes to Foster. Karl Struss's (SUNRISE) evocative B&W cinematography goes a long way in creating a topsy turvy world of paranoia. It's the kind of film where practically everyone seems suspicious and not to be trusted, not even its "hero". But something about the film seems unfinished as if scenes were deleted that migh have added some coherency to the movie. Also with Dolores Del Rio, Agnes Moorehead, Richard Bennett, Hans Conreid, Jack Durant and Jack Moss.  

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dunkirk (2017)

In May of 1940, British and French soldiers find themselves cut off and surrounded by German troops at the beaches of Dunkirk. An evacuation attempt seems almost impossible as there are more soldiers than ships to rescue them and the Germans are bombing from both the air and land as well as U-boat attacks on the sea. Directed by Christopher Nolan, this is an incredibly intense and visceral cinematic experience. Dialog is kept to a minimum as we are thrown into the thick of the desperation, fear, hysteria and heroism of the evacuation. Easily Nolan's best film to date (though that's not saying much) but giving credit where it is due, Nolan gives us a masterful piece of direction and wisely keeping the events under a two hour running time, he doesn't let the movie slow down for a minute. It should easily take its place among the best war films ever made and it runs rings around SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. On the downside, there's yet another shitty Hans Zimmer score but more importantly there is no one for the audience to latch onto. There aren't any characters as such, not really, and the few there are are underdeveloped. Should do very well at the next Oscars (except for the acting and writing categories). With Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and Harry Styles.

Gertrud (1964)

In early 20th century Sweden, a woman (Nina Pens Rode) tells her husband (Bendt Rothe), a rising politician, that she is leaving him for another man (Baard Owe). But love isn't always a smooth road. Based on the 1906 play by Hjalmar Soderberg and directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer in his final film. Considering how fluid most of Dreyer's films are (VAMPYR, PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, DAY OF WRATH), GERTRUD is surprisingly static and uncinematic. I've not read Soderberg's play but it comes across as faux Ibsen, specifically A DOLL'S HOUSE. Dreyer uses long takes with the actors barely moving and acting so stiffly that you'd swear they all had metal rods up their asses. For a film where love is the central motif, it's bloodless and lacks passion. As Gertrud, Rode delivers her lines in a monotone that she seems to be reading them off cue cards! I've not seen any of these actors in other films so I don't know if they were directed that way or they're just lousy actors (Rothe is particularly terrible). The material might have worked with more intense actors and I could see Bergman doing it with members of his stock company like Harriet Andersson and Erland Josephson. The film does have its fans though (like Jean Luc Godard). With Ebbe Rode and Axel Strobye.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Once Bitten (1985)

A 400 year old vampire (Lauren Hutton) must have the blood of a male virgin to keep her youth and beauty. This being L.A. in the 1980s, a male virgin is hard to find! But find one she does in the form of a geeky high school kid (Jim Carrey) but he's not too keen on the idea of being a vampire. Ah, the 1980s, the era of dumb comedies. I think it's safe to say this film probably would never have existed if it hadn't been for the success of LOVE AT FIRST BITE six years earlier. Unfortunately, the film lacks BITE's impudent wit and affection for the genre. Which isn't to say the laughs aren't here, they're just fewer and far between. Mostly they come from Jim Carrey in his first leading role and Cleavon Little (BLAZING SADDLES) as Hutton's sassy butler/chauffeur. Carrey gets a chance to do at what he's best at, physical comedy and his influence from Jerry Lewis has never been more obvious. The "kids" in this film aren't a very interesting lot so I found myself cheering the vampires on. Directed by Howard Storm. With Karin Kopins, Thomas Ballatore, Skip Lackey and Megan Mullally.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Gambling Ship (1933)

A Chicago gangster (Cary Grant) gets acquitted of a murder rap and decides to go legit. To this end, he takes a train to Los Angeles to start his new life but he falls in love with a fellow passenger (Benita Hume). He keeps his past from her but he doesn't realize she has a few secrets of her own. Based on several short stories by Paul Cain and directed by Louis J. Gasnier and Max Marcin. This modestly enjoyable pre-code programmer features appealing performances by a pre-stardom Cary Grant and the charming Benita Hume (who would retire to marry Ronald Colman then George Sanders). I would imagine it's actually more appealing now than it was in 1933 when it was pretty standard stuff. Today, its quaintness is rather endearing. These programmers were quick (this one runs 70 minutes) and pushed the narrative quickly so that you didn't have the time to ponder the absurdities of the plot. The supporting cast includes Glenda Farrell, Jack La Rue, Roscoe Karns and Arthur Vinton.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mary, Queen Of Scots (1971)

After the death of her husband, the King of France (Richard Denning), Mary of Scotland (Vanessa Redgrave) returns to Scotland to take her place as the Scottish Queen. But Queen Elizabeth I (Glenda Jackson) fearing a takeover of the English throne by her cousin takes action to subvert any such thing. Directed by Charles Jarrott (ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS), John Hale's screenplay takes liberties with history for dramatic effect and the result is a grandly entertaining if historically inaccurate film. There is no evidence that Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart met in real life but when you have two great actresses like Redgrave and Jackson and they have no scenes together, you better well write one! Redgrave is all gossamer loveliness in contrast to Jackson's sturdy monarch. But as wonderful as they are, they are supported by an excellent (save one) cast. The sore thumb is Timothy Dalton as Mary's treacherous second husband , who overacts terribly. The production values are ace and there's a superb score by John Barry. With Trevor Howard, Ian Holm, Patrick McGoohan, Nigel Davenport, Daniel Massey and Andrew Keir. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What Makes Sammy Run? (1959)

A young man (Larry Blyden) rises from copy boy at a New York newspaper to the head of a major Hollywood studio by lying, stealing, using people and stepping over bodies. Based on the praised 1941 novel by Budd Schulberg (who adapted his novel) and directed by Delbert Mann (SEPARATE TABLES). This acidic look at the rise of an amoral protagonist at the expense of innocent people was, and still is, highly controversial. Reputedly Samuel Goldwyn offered Schulberg money not to publish the book and according to Schulberg, Steven Spielberg said the book was "anti Hollywood and should never be filmed". I don't know about it being "anti" Hollywood but it's a venal piece of entertainment and I mean that as a compliment. We can see the attraction of the Sammys of this world as they skyrocket to the top but what goes up must come down and we wait for the inevitable comeuppance. Blyden is very good in the title role and he's matched by Dina Merrill as the chilly ice princess every bit as soulless as he. With John Forsythe as the story's conscience, Barbara Rush, Sidney Blackmer, Norman Fell and Monique Van Vooren. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

One Eyed Jacks (1961)

After pulling a bank heist in Mexico, one (Marlon Brando) of the bandits is betrayed by his partner (Karl Malden). As a result, he is sent to prison. But when he escapes, there is only one thing on his mind ..... revenge! Based on the novel THE AUTHENTIC DEATH OF HENDRY JONES by Charles Neider and directed by Brando, his only attempt at directing a feature film. This is an undervalued Freudian western and quite different from its genre brethren. First, there's the stunning backdrop of the Monterey coast beautifully shot by Charles Lang (BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE), who received an Oscar nomination for his work here. How many westerns are set on a beach? The film focuses on character rather than gun play which allows for some excellent performances and fleshed out characters rather than western stereotypes. The film's only flaw is its length. As engrossing as it is, it can't justify its near 2 1/2 hour running time. Brando's performance is fresh and well thought out rather than give us a cliched cowboy bent on revenge. He is equally matched by Malden in one of his best performances. There's a beauty of an underscore by Hugo Friedhofer. With Katy Jurado, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens, Timothy Carey, Miriam Colon, Ray Teal, Philip Ahn and Pina Pellicer as Brando's love interest.