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Friday, January 31, 2020

Bakushu (aka Early Summer) (1951)

An extended family is concerned that the 28 year old daughter (Setsuko Hara) is still unmarried. When an opportunity comes for an arranged marriageshe hesitates preferring instead to make her own plans. Directed by Yasujiro Ozuthis quiet and subtle film looks at the changing landscape of Japanese culture as the traditional ways of family values gives way to more modern ideas especially as it pertains to women. As with Ozu's post war films that deal with familythere's a beautifully crafted narrative that gives us insight into Japanese tradition and how western influences are changing its values. Example: the two adolescent boys (Zen MuraseIsao Shirosawa) whose disrespectful insolence toward grown ups would never have been tolerated before the war. Its leisurely pace (it's over two hours long) allows Ozu to examine the film's subsidiary characters and flesh them out. A lovely film with a strong central performance by Hara. My only quibble is with the mundane underscore by Senji Ito but then againI don't think I've seen an Ozu film with a decent score. The splendid cast includes Chishu RyuKuniko MiyakeHaruku Sugimura and Chikage Awashima. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Beyond The Poseidon Adventure (1979)

The skipper (Michael Caine) of a salvage tugboat discovers the capsized S.S. Poseidon the morning after it was overturned by a tidal wave. When he reaches the shiphe discovers a medical ship with a crew lead by a doctor (Telly Savalas) who claims they are looking for survivors. But his intentions are much more nefarious. Based on the novel by Paul Gallico (author of the original THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE) and directed by Irwin Allen (THE SWARM). After the massive success of POSEIDON and TOWERING INFERNO which Allen produced but were directed by other people (Ronald Neame on POSEIDON and John Guillermin on INFERNO)for some reason Allen decided he wanted to direct his films too. The result was the disastrous THE SWARM (1978) which he followed with this film. While not as bad as THE SWARMthis one is pretty dreadful too. In THE POSEIDON ADVENTUREwe got to know the characters and care about their fate. Herethe characters are ciphers spouting the most vapid dialog. The film is crammed with talented actors (6 Oscars among them) but they all pretty much give the worst performances of their careers. I've never seen Sally Field (2 Oscars) as bad as this and Michael Caine (2 Oscars) barks all his lines in a monotonous cadence. To be fairthey're all hampered with an impossibly ludicrous script. With Karl Malden (1 Oscar)Shirley Jones (1 Oscar)Jack WardenShirley KnightMark HarmonAngela CartwrightVeronica HamelSlim Pickens and Paul Picerni.  

Love Is News (1937)

A cynical newspaper reporter (Tyrone Power) poses as a security officer in order to get a scoop on a headline making heiress (Loretta Young). When the heiress discovers the reporter's subterfugeshe plots her own revenge to get even. Directed by Tay Garnett (THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE)this screwball comedy hits the right notes so why isn't it funnier? You can't fault Garnett's rapid pacing and the script is decent. Perhaps it's in the casting. While Loretta Young is surprisingly goodyou don't think of Tyrone Power when it comes to screwball comedy and there's a reason why. Ohhe's a charmer alright and he does give it his best shot but he doesn't have a comic actor's instinct. 11 years laterFox remade the film under the title THAT WONDERFUL URGE with Gene Tierney in Young's role and Power repeating his role. He's much better in that one so perhaps he just needed some seasoning to relax into the part. Stillit's a diverting piece of Golden age fluff. With Don AmecheGeorge SandersJane DarwellElisha Cook Jr. and in a cringe inducing performanceStepin Fetchit.  

The Cincinnati Kid (1965)

Set in 1930s New Orleansa small time gambler (Steve McQueen) has acquired a reputation as the one to beat in a poker game. But he will have to beat the champion (Edward G. Robinson) referred to in the world of high stakes poker as "The Man". Based on the novel by Richard Jessup and directed by Norman Jewison (MOONSTRUCK)who took over after Sam Peckinpah was fired. Often smugly dismissed as THE HUSTLER with cards (instead of pool)this is a fine film.  With a first rate castcinematographer (Philip H. Lathrop) and editor (Hal Ashby) at his disposalJewison has assembled a concise and controlled film that whips up some tension. Even if you're not a poker playeryou're bound to be caught up in the atmosphere of smoky card rooms and risk it all poker. The cast is impeccable right down the line with the veterans Edward G. Robinson and Joan Blondell taking over whenever they are on screen. Ray Charles sings the title song. With Ann MargretKarl MaldenTuesday WeldRip TornCab CallowayJack Weston and Jeff Corey.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

City Without Men (1943)

Set in the months just prior to the U.S. entering WWIIa young man (Michael Duane) is framed for aiding the Japanese. While serving a five year sentence in prisonhis school teacher fiancee (Linda Darnellborrowed from 20th Century Fox) moves into a boarding house near the prison which is populated by convict wives so she can be near him. Directed by Sidney Salkow (RAIDERS OF THE SEVEN SEAS)this low budget crime melodrama started out as bigger budgeted Samuel Goldwyn production starring Jean Arthur but Goldwyn sold the rights to Columbia Pictures and it ended up a B programmer. Even with a larger budgetI doubt it would be a better movie. Indeedthe film's budget is in line with the film's modest aims and the "cheap" look actually gives it a taint of authenticity. The film is interesting as long as it concentrates on the convicts' wives. When it moves to the prisonwe get prison movie cliches (we wait for the inevitable jail break). There's an early underscore by David Raksin. With Glenda FarrellLloyd BridgesMargaret HamiltonDon DeForeRosemary DeCampEdgar BuchananSara AllgoodLeslie Brooks and Constance Worth. 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Flor De Mayo (aka Beyond All Limits) (1959)

Set in a small Mexican fishing villagea fisherman (Pedro Armendariz) is happy to see his old friend (Jack Palance) returning. But his wife (Maria Felix) isn't happy to see him come back. Her affair with him produced a son (Juan Muzquiz) which the fisherman believes is his own child. Based on the novel by Vicente Blasco Ibanez (BLOOD AND SAND) and directed by Roberto Gavaldon. The transfer I saw was in English but this overheated melodrama might play better in Spanish (I believe an original Spanish language DVD exists but without English subtitles). Accompanied by a horrendous over the top score by Gustavo Cesar Carrionthe actors carry on as if they were in an opera. I kept waiting for Pedro Armendariz to tear his shirt open and beat his chest! All of the film's characters are unpleasant people which kept me from investing in their moral quandary. The location lensing in color by Gabriel Figueroa (NIGHT OF THE IGUANA) is often striking but the constant over emotionality of the whole thing is exhaustive. With Paul Stewart and Carlos Montalban.   

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Cinderella (1957)

A young girl named Cinderella (Julie Andrews) is treated as a servant by her stepmother (Ilka Chase) and her stepsisters (Kaye BallardAlice Ghostley). When a ball is announced in honor of the return of the Prince (Jon Cypher) to the kingdomthe stepmother and stepsisters plan to attend while leaving Cinderella at home. Based on the classic fairy tale by Charles Perrault with music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein and directed by Ralph Nelson (LILIES OF THE FIELD). This original musical was done live on television and captured a record breaking (for the time) audience. It's popularity was such that it was later adapted for the stage (instead of the other way around) and it was remade in 1965 and 1997 for TV. Originally shown in coloralas only a B&W transfer has survived. While this production may lack magicthere's a sincerity and simplicity to it that's engaging and Julie Andrews makes the perfect Cinderella. The R&H songs are all first rate and one would have to be a curmudgeon to nitpick. With Edie AdamsDorothy Stickney and Howard Lindsay. 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

That Funny Feeling (1965)

A struggling actress (Sandra Dee) is working as a maid to make ends meet. When she meets an upscale businessman (Bobby Darin)she's too embarrassed to invite him to her postage stamp apartment. So she passes off a swanky apartment that she cleans as her own ... unaware that it's actually the businessman's bachelor pad. Directed by Richard Thorpe (JAILHOUSE ROCK). By 1965Doris Day and Rock Hudson had outgrown the romcoms like PILLOW TALK and LOVER COME BACK that made them king and queen of the box office. Bring in Sandra Dee and then husband Bobby Darin to fill their shoes! The very familiar screenplay feels like a blueprint of those Day/Hudson comedies but Dee and Darin just aren't up to filling those shoes. It's a mildly entertaining and inoffensive movie but there's an air of ennui about it. The film even has a stand in for Tony RandallDonald O'Connor as Darin's recently divorced colleague and Nita Talbot as Dee's room mate serves as a Thelma Ritter confidante. With Leo G. CarrollReta ShawLarry StorchKathleen FreemanArte Johnson and Nora Marlowe.  

The Raven (1963)

In mourning for his deceased wife (Hazel Court)a master magician (Vincent Price) is told by a man (Peter Lorre) turned into a raven by a rival magician (Boris Karloff) that his wife is alive and the mistress of his nemesis. Very loosely based on the classic Edgar Allan Poe poem and directed by Roger Corman. Of all the Poe adaptations done by Corman and American Internationalthis is my least favorite. Mainly because for some reason Corman chose to do it as a comedy rather than a traditional horror film. I found the "comedy" rather silly and tedious and couldn't help but wish that Corman had taken the material seriously. Sureit's a thrill to see such genre icons as Vincent PriceBoris KarloffPeter Lorre as well as a very young Jack Nicholson (as Lorre's son) all in the same movie but I wasn't amused. The highlight of the film is a magician's showdown with Price and Karloff dueling with their occult abilities which is enjoyable. With Olive Sturgess as Price's daughter.

The Moderns (1988)

Set in the 1926 Paris of the "lost generation"a struggling American artist (Keith Carradine) becomes involved in forging masterpieces for a wealthy woman (Geraldine Chaplin) and romantically involved with the wife (Linda Fiorentino) of a brutal and dangerous businessman (John Lone). Co-written and directed by Alan Rudolph (CHOOSE ME)the film coasts on its exquisite recreation of Paris in the 1920s. It's an art director's and costume designer's movie and the milieu is everything. Its rambling screenplay is borderline pretentious and Carradine and Fiorentino aren't strong enough actors to compensate for their uninteresting characters. As for Kevin O'Connor as Ernest HemingwayI'm not sure which is worse. His godawful performance or the inane dialog he's been given. But three of the supporting actors manage to rise above the material and make their presence felt: Geraldine ChaplinJohn Lone and Genevieve Bujold. With Wallace Shawn and Elsa Raven as Gertrude Stein.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Johnny Apollo (1940)

When his stockbroker father (Edward Arnold) is sent to prison for embezzlementhis son (Tyrone Power) denounces him. But after regretting his decision to abandon his fatherhe turns to a life of crime as a mobster's (Lloyd Nolan) henchman in order to buy his father a pardon. Directed by Henry Hathaway (TRUE GRIT)this crime drama is unusual in that Tyrone Power plays against type instead of his usual romantic leading man roles as does Dorothy Lamour (on loan from Paramount to 20th Century Fox) as a mobster's mistress. That's about it as far as out of the ordinary as the plot is pretty standard fare. Power is okay but he'd reveal stronger acting chops seven years later in NIGHTMARE ALLEY. Its interest today is strictly for the "Golden Age" star power (no pun intended) of Power and Lamour. If the film had starred Richard Carlson and Ann RutherfordI doubt anybody would be interested. With Charley GrapewinLionel Atwill and Marc Lawrence.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Quatermass 2 (aka Enemy From Space) (1957)

When an American scientist (Brian Donlevy) in Britain investigates reports of meteorites landing in a rural part of Englandhe discovers a mysterious "top secret" complex that hides a deadly secret. Directed by Val Guest (THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE)this is a sequel to Guest's THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT (1955) and as sequels goit's very good. In factI'd venture to say it's better than its predecessor. It looks marvelous thanks to Gerald Gibbs (NO ORCHIDS FOR MISS BLANDISH) B&W cinematography and Guest keeps the movie galloping along at a racing pace. It's not a film where the acting matters much which is good because Donlevy as Quatermass is pretty flaccid (apparently he was inebriated during most of the filming). It would be another ten years before another big screen Quatermass movie would be made. With John LongdonBryan Forbes (prior to his directing career)Sidney JamesPercy HerbertVera Day and Marianne Stone.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Green Glove (1952)

A down on his luck ex-paratrooper (Glenn Ford) returns to France to recover a precious jeweled glove that had been stolen from a country church. During WWIIhe encountered a Nazi collaborator (GeorgeMacready) who had the glove in his possession. Directed by Rudolph Mate (WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE) from an original screenplay by Charles Bennett. This routine thriller has the advantage of being shot on location in the South of France and Monaco by the great Claude Renoir (THE SPY WHO LOVED ME) but alasit was shot in B&W thus reducing its glamour factor which it could have used a lot of. I don't think even Hitchcock could have made a silk purse out of this sow's ear even though there are many Hitchcockian elements in the movie which is not surprising considering Bennett wrote THE 39 STEPS for Hitch. Glenn Ford is rather anemic as the returning G.I. and the film's female lead Geraldine Brooks lacks the "oomph" factor. I wasn't boredI'll give it that. With Sir Cedric HardwickeGaby Andre and Jany Holt. 

La Veuve De Saint Pierre (aka The Widow Of Saint Pierre) (2000)

Set in 1849 on the French island of Saint Pierre (near Canada)a condemned murderer (Emir Kusturica) is placed in the care of an army officer (Daniel Auteuil) and his wife (Juliette Binoche) until a guillotine can be sent to the island for the execution. But as the months passthe condemned man atones for his crime and the islanders come to object to the execution. But the island's politicians become even more determined to carry it out. Directed by Patrice Leconte (MONSIEUR HIRE)the film is based on an actual incident. The widow of the title has a double meaning which becomes clear by the film's conclusion. It's a disturbing film on several levels as it addresses some issues. Can one overlook the severity of the crime when the criminal changeswhen he is not the same man who committed the crime? Does a military officer's obligation to duty supersede his marital obligations? What does capital punishment solve? There's a triple tragedy by the film's finale and it all seems so futile when you realize that not only was justice not served but "justice"in factwas the cause of these tragedies. Stillalthough I was sympathetic to the film's charactersI couldn't help but think how the victim was so easily forgotten in all this. With Michael Duchaussoy and Philippe Magnan.

Out Of The Blue (1947)

When his shrewish wife (Carole Landis) goes out of town for the weekenda henpecked husband (George Brent) picks up an alcoholic flirt (Ann Dvorak) and invites her to his apartment for a drink. This turns out to be a big mistake as what he gets isn't what he bargained for! Based on a short story by Vera Caspary (LAURA) and directed by Leigh Jason. This little known screwball comedy is a real sleeper. Who knew the normally dull-ish Brent could do farce so well? George Brent and Ann Dvorak provide the majority of laughs but the film is saddled with a conventional romantic couplea photographer (Turhan Bey) and a model (Virginia Mayo) that aren't nearly as fun. I don't want to oversell itit's no THE AWFUL TRUTH or BRINGING UP BABY but it's still a real charmer and worth checking out. With Elizabeth Patterson and Julia Dean as two snoopy old biddies.     

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Roustabout (1964)

After his motorcycle gets smashed up in an accidenta drifter (Elvis Presley) reluctantly accepts a temporary job with a carnival at the behest of its owner (Barbara Stanwyck) until his motorcycle gets repaired. Directed by John Rich (WIVES AND LOVERS)this is your typical mid sixties lightweight Elvis vehicle with just enough plot to hold you until the next song. The songs are a mixed bag with only two stand outsHard Knocks which is prime Elvis and Little Egypt which is a cover of the old Coasters hit. Presley's character is a real jerkhowever. I guess the film makers figuredit's Elvis. Everybody likes Elvis. Yes but his character is selfisharrogant and egotistical. Qualities even Elvis can't make attractive thoughof coursewe all know he'll redeem himself in the final reel (or in this casethe last five minutes). StillI'd say this one is for Elvis fans only. If you're a Stanwyck fanyou're going to be disappointed. She looks great but she's ill used. With Joan FreemanLeif EricksonJack AlbertsonSue Ane LangdonJoan StaleySteve Brodie and in bit partstwo future stars: Raquel Welch and Teri Garr.

Little Women (2019)

Set during the Civil War and shortly afterthe lives of the March sisters: the feisty and independent Jo (Saoirse Ronan)the sensible down to earth Meg (Emma Watson)the self centered Amy (Florence Pugh) and the fragile Beth (Eliza Scanlen). Based on the beloved classic by Louisa May Alcott and directed by Greta Gerwig (LADY BIRD). Did we really need yet another version of LITTLE WOMEN? Probably not but if there's a book that is practically fool proof in its various incarnations on film and stageit's LITTLE WOMEN. I have seen many versions and while they vary in qualitynone of them are bad. Gerwig's take on the Alcott classic is refreshing. I'm not sure Alcott would have approved but Gerwig has given us a LITTLE WOMEN for the 21st century without betraying Alcott's source material. Done in a non linear fashionshe's given it a feminist bent along with some tweaking. Notablygiving Amy (who's usually played as a ditzy flirt) a backbone and some spirit. Perfect performances right down the line and yet another winning score by Alexandre Desplat. With Meryl StreepLaura DernTimothee ChalametChris CooperTracy Letts and James Norton.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Un Tranquillo Posto Di Campagna (aka A Quiet Place In The Country) (1968)

A well known artist (Franco Nero) is plagued with bizarre nightmares. His press agent (Vanessa Redgrave)who is also his mistresssuggests a quiet place in the country to relax. But things become worse as the artist becomes obsessed with the spirit of a young girl (Gabriella Boccardo) who was killed at the villa during WWII. Based on the novel THE BECKONING FAIR ONE by George Oliver Onions and directed by Elio Petri (INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION). Upon its original releasethe films reviews were divisive and it's easy to see why. Though the film is often mistakenly referred to as a giallo (as if every Italian film with bloody killings is automatically a giallo)this is more of a psychological thriller. There's no real mystery to it as everything that happens in it points to an obvious and inevitable solution. It's style over substance cinema and Petri has style to burn. Whether it's enough to sustain one's interest in the movie depends on one's tolerance for a pretentious narrative with no logic and lots of kink. I'm quite fond of both Redgrave and Nero which helped a lot. The appropriately cacophonous score is by Ennio Morricone. With Georges Geret and Madeleine Damien.

Swamp Fire (1946)

After serving in WWIIa man (Johnny Weissmuller) returns home to the bayous of Louisiana. His attempts to fall back into his former life are complicated by a wealthy heiress (Virginia Grey) who has designs on him and his  hot tempered rival (Buster Crabbe doing a dreadful Cajun accent) who resents his return. Directed by William H. Pinethis poverty row potboiler is of interest in seeing Tarzan (Weissmuller) and Flash Gordon (Crabbe) battle each other. Weissmuller may not be playing Tarzan but he's still wrestling rubber alligators! As usual in films of this sortthe "bad" girl (Grey) is much more fun than the "good" girl (Carol Thurston) though it's inevitable that Weismuller will choose the boring nice girl. Watchable but forgettable. With Pedro De Cordoba and Pierre Watkin. 

Mission To Mars (2000)

The first manned mission to Mars lands safely on the red planet. But the Martian landscape harbors a shocking secret and a mysterious vortex destroys the expeditionleaving only one survivor (Don Cheadle). When a distress message is receiveda rescue mission is sent but an amazing discovery awaits them. Directed by Brian De Palmathe film was panned by U.S. film critics (Pauline Kael was one of the few mainstream critics who had some good things to say about it) but in Europeit was very well received and Cahiers Du Cinema named it one of the year's 10 best films. 20 years laterI'm with the European critics. This is not to say the film is not flawedit has a lot (there's too much sentimentthe dialog is pedestrian) but there are some incredibly beautiful moments in the film and it puts forth a theory that while it may upset creationistsI found imaginative and brave. The production designart direction and CGI are first rate. This is definitely thinking man's sci-fi. The shimmering score by Ennio Morricone is one of his best. With Gary SiniseTim RobbinsJerry O'ConnellArmin Mueller Stahl and Connie Nielsen.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Target: Harry (1969)

When a freelance pilot (Vic Morrow) working out of Monte Carlo flies a passenger (Stanley Holloway) to Istanbul and the passenger later turns up murdered, he becomes the focus of a mysterious femme fatale (Suzanne Pleshette) and a local mobster (Victor Buono) who both want what the passenger was carrying in his briefcase. Directed by Roger Corman under the pseudonym of Henry Neill. This was originally intended as a TV movie with the possibility of becoming a regular TV series with Morrow. That never happened. Instead, some gratuitous sex, nudity and violence were inserted into the film and it was released theatrically under the title HOW TO MAKE IT. It's an unexceptional film so one can see why Corman might have wanted his name taken off it. Vic Morrow is a good actor but he's not leading man material and this film shows why. It needed a Charles Bronson or Burt Reynolds type of actor whose screen presence could make it tolerable. Suzanne Pleshette is ideal casting for a femme fatale but the movie's trite dialog does her in and eventually renders her unappealing. But the film's ineptness is never more obvious when Charlotte Rampling's character is brutally murdered and it's obvious Ms. Rampling wasn't even in the room when the scene was shot. They don't even try to obscure the fact that it is not Rampling and even give her body double (who doesn't look like her) a close up! With Cesar Romero and Michael Ansara. 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Six Black Horses (1962)

A drifter (Audie Murphy) and a hired killer (Dan Duryea) accept a woman's (Joan O'Brien) offer of $1,000 apiece to take her through hostile Apache territory to be with her husband. But the woman isn't forthcoming about her real reasons for the trek. Directed by Harry Keller (THE UNGUARDED MOMENT)this routine oater is basically a three character film with only two interesting characters. Murphy's character isn't very interesting. It's a pity that Murphy never found his Budd Boetticher or Anthony Mann the way Randolph Scott and James Stewart did and were able to create some of the best westerns of the 1950s. Murphy wasn't much of an actor but he wasn't a bad one and could be effective in the right role. Murphy's work for John Huston (RED BADGE OF COURAGETHE UNFORGIVEN) suggests that perhaps Huston was able to tap into Murphy's psyche and might have been a good director for him but Huston wasn't a genre director. FortunatelyDan Duryea and Joan O'Brien play characters with enough ambiguity (we're never quite sure if they're good or bad) to hold our attention through the film's running time. With George Barcroft and Bob Steele.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Perils Of Pauline (1947)

A factory worker (Betty Hutton) dreams of becoming a stage actress. She joins a small acting troupe but her inadequacies as an actress ruin the shows. So what's an aspiring actress to do? Why go into the moviesof course! A highly fictionalized account of the silent film actress Pearl White and directed by George Marshall (MY FRIEND IRMA). If there's an iota of actual truth in any of this movieit's an accident. Pearl White had died in 1938 so she didn't live to see this travesty of her life. What it isis a vehicle for Betty Huttonat the timeParamount's biggest female star. Hutton is an acquired taste. Her manic style can be exhausting as evidenced in some of her musical numbers here like Rumble Rumble Rumble but when she stops all the antics and just singsshe can be effective as in her restrained rendition of the Oscar nominated I Wish I Didn't Love You So. My own favorite musical number is Poppa Don't Preach To Me (nonot the Madonna song). For Hutton fans only (there must be a few). With John LundWilliam DemearestBilly De WolfeConstance Collier and Frank Faylen.

The Thief Of Baghdad (1961)

A thief (Steve Reeves) falls in love with the Sultan's (Antonio Battistella) beautiful daughter (Giorgia Moll) who is betrothed to the evil Prince Osman (Arturo Dominici). When she becomes seriously illonly a rare blue rose will cure her. So off the thief goes to find the blue rose but he will find danger and adventure in his quest. Although an Italian filmit is directed by the Hollywood veteran Arthur Lubin (BUCK PRIVATES). The film appears to have a bigger budget than the usual Steve Reeves films of the period allowing for better production values including the handsome Tunisian locations shot in CinemaScope by Tonino Delli Colli (ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST)beautiful costumesart direction and design and good special effects. While it lacks the charm of the 1924 and 1940 versionsit is still a grand and colorful adventure that should make fans of fantasy cinema pleased. With Daniele VargasEdy Vessel and Fanfulla (FELLINI SATYRICON).

Monday, January 13, 2020

A Fine Madness (1966)

An anti-establishment poet (Sean Connery) is frustrated because of writer's block. His wife (Joanne Woodward) arranges for him to be analyzed by a prominent psychiatrist (Patrick O'Neal) in the hopes he will be able to discover the cause of the writer's block. Based on the novel by Elliott Baker and directed by Irvin Kershner (EYES OF LAURA MARS). Ohthe 1960s! When misogynisticmisanthropicabusive non conformists were considered heroes! When punching your pregnant wife in the face could be done for a laugh! A major part of the plot deals with a doctor (Clive Revill) eager to give the poet a lobotomy which misfires because Connery looks like a lobotomy might actually help him. I don't mean to be to hard on the film because much of it is actually very good but it's of its era. Connery brings a welcome vitality to his character but Woodward's shrill one note performance becomes irritating very quickly. There's a wealth of talent in the supporting cast including Jean SebergColleen DewhurstKay MedfordJackie CooganSue Ane LangdonZohra LampertBibi OsterwaldRichard CastellanoRenee Taylor and Mabel Albertson.

Pippin: His Life And Times (1981)

A group of traveling players present the story of Pippin (William Katt)son of the 9th century King Charlemagne and head of the Holy Roman Empirein song and dance. Based on the hit Broadway musical and directed by David Sheehan. The Broadway show owed its success to Bob Fosse's direction and staging and here choreographer Kathryn Doby recreates Fosse's unique dance style. The songs by Stephen Schwartz range from decent to very good but the show's problem has always been its book credited to Roger O. Hirson. It's weak although it's filled with self importance because it's (trying to) saying something. Forget the dialog interludes and enjoy the singing and dancing. Two performers stand out: the dynamic Ben Vereen (recreating his Tony winning performance) as the troupe's leader and Chita Riverawho gives a sly performance as Pippin's stepmother. This production is a filmed play before a live audiencenot a movie but the energy is there and pushes the staging forward but oh that trite dialog! I wouldn't mind seeing a proper film version. With Martha RayeLeslie DennistonBenjamin Rayson and Christopher Chadman. 

The Mole People (1956)

While excavating sites in Asiaa group of archaeologists (John AgarHugh BeaumontNestor Paiva) find evidence of a civilization living deep in the bowels of Earth. Descending into a deep tunnelthey discover a lost race of Sumerians. Directed by Virgil Vogelthis piece of science fiction seemed awesome when I was 10 years old but viewed as an adultit's just silly and the nostalgia factor isn't enough to overlook how dumb it is. Even with a short running time of one hour and 17 minutesit seems padded. It starts with a rather ludicrous prologue with a professor from USC spouting off some inane trivia about hollow earth theories and it takes forever for the doltish archaeologists to discover the Sumerian civilization as they wander around the dark tunnels. Wooden actors like Agar and Beaumont don't help much and it isn't until Alan Napier as a Sumerian priest shows up that we get some kitsch. With Cynthia Patrick and Rodd Redwing.    

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Town On Trial (1957)

When a flirtatious tease (Magda Miller) is found strangled in the woodsthe police inspector (John Mills) assigned to the case narrows it down to three suspects: a doctor (Charles Coburn)the local social club's secretary (Derek Farr) and a sensitive young man (Alec McCowen)who may or may not have mental problems. Directed by John Guillermin (TOWERING INFERNO)this British mystery film is hampered by the lack of any real sense of mystery or suspense. The screenplay narrows it down to the three male suspects and it would have been fresh if it was actually someone else but it isn't. So the film is a waiting game till we find out which of the three men did it and the ending is a cliche. The acting is generally good especially Elizabeth Seal (Broadway's IRMA LA DOUCE) as another flirtatious good time gal. With Barbara BatesFay ComptonGeoffrey KeenMaureen Connell and Margaretta Scott.  

Boy, Did I Get A Wrong Number (1966)

A Hollywood sex symbol (Elke Sommer) is tired of being exploited for her body so she walks off the set of her latest film and hides out in a secluded lakeside cabin in Oregon. Things gets ultra complicated when a real estate agent (Bob Hope) trying to sell the lakeside property gets involved with the actress. Directed by George Marshall (MURDER HE SAYS)this mid 60s Bob Hope farce is a prime example of the rut Hope's film career was in. One of the dependable comic film actors in the 30s40s and 50safter BACHELOR IN PARADISE (1961)his last good comedyhis movies became increasingly worse. Known for his crackerjack timingboth he and Phyllis Diller (playing his maid) are unable to do anything with the material. There's not a single laugh to be had in the whole filmnot one which allows one's mind to wander and dwell on something like the hideousness of Marjorie Lord's (as Hope's wife) ugly wig. Surprisinglyit did fairly well at the box office. With Cesare DanovaJoyce Jameson and Terry Burnham.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Pinky (1949)

A young woman (Jeanne Crain) returns to her Southern roots from the North where she had been working as a nurse. When confronted by her grandmother (Ethel Waters)she confesses she had been passing for white. She hadn't told her fiance (William Lundigan) about her black heritage and she has come home to sort things out. Based on the novel QUALITY by Cid Ricketts Sumner and directed by Elia Kazan (ON THE WATERFRONT). Under Daryl F. Zanuck20th Century Fox produced a series of socially conscious filmsthe Oscar winning GENTLEMEN'S AGREEMENT (also directed by Kazan) being the most notable example. While GENTLEMEN'S AGREEMENT comes across as obvious and heavy handed todayPINKY holds up very well and (unfortunately) still relevant as when the police stop Crain's Pinkytheir courtesy turns brutal after they discover she is black or after a sales clerk realizes she is "colored"he charges her twice as much. Crain's Oscar nominated performance is often dismissed but I think she's very good here. For a 1949 filmit doesn't pull any punches. The film was banned in Texas in a case that went all the way up to the Supreme Court which resulted in a landmark decision giving First Amendment rights to films. With Ethel Barrymore (also Oscar nominated along with Ethel Waters)Evelyn VardenFrederick O'NealBasil RuysdaelArthur Hunnicutt and Nina Mae McKinney.

1917 (2019)

Set during WWI in Francetwo young British soldiers (George MacKayDean Charles Chapman) are given the mission to hand deliver a message to another regiment to cancel their attack plans as it's a planned ambush by the Germans. But their journey will be a treacherous one across battle lines. Directed by Sam Mendes (SKYFALL). I'm not much of a fan of war films and I went into this one with some trepidation. It was unwarranted as this is easily one of the best war films I've ever seen. Even if it weren't a good filmit would be worth seeing for Roger Deakins' stunning cinematography alone. Shot in long takes seemingly without cuts (I didn't detect any)Deakins pulls off some amazing shots without calling attention to itself and always in service of the film. You never get the feeling he's showing off. By focusing on only two charactersMendes is able to sharpen the film's narrative which allows the intimacy to take precedence over the "epic" style. He shows us heroism and bravery without resorting to jingoism and shows us war is hell without the pretentiousness of something like ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. Thomas Newman provides the best film score I've heard this year. Quite an achievement and highly recommended. With Colin FirthBenedict CumberbatchAndrew ScottMark StrongRichard Madden and Claire Duburcqthe only woman in the film. 

Der Golem: Wie Er In Die Welt Kam (aka The Golem: How He Came Into The World) (1920)

In the Jewish ghetto of medieval Polanda Rabbi (Albert Steinruck) reading the stars sees disaster for his people. The day afterthe Emperor (Otto Gebhur) issues a mandate that the Jews must leave Prague. To save his peoplethe Rabbi invokes a spell that will bring his newly created clay creationthe Golem (Paul Wegener)to life to protect his people. Based on the 1915 novel by Gustav Meyrink and directed by Paul Wegener and Carl Boese. Made at the height of German expressionism in cinemathis was an influential film in the horror genre chiefly because of Karl Freund's cinematography (he would go on to shoot the 1931 DRACULA) and the art direction of Hans Poelzig and Kurt Richter. For exampleits influence can clearly be seen in James Whale's film of FRANKENSTEIN (1931). Its iconic status asideit remains a transfixing piece of horror cinema rather than just an archival museum piece. With Lydia SalmonovaErnst DueutschLothar Muthel and Fritz Feld.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Scissors (1991)

A young mentally unstable woman (Sharon Stone) fights off a rapist and stabs him with scissors but he gets away. But she begins to unravel. Is somebody helping to push her over the edge? Directed by novelist turned director Frank De Felitta (THE ENTITY)this psychological thriller is so inept in every department that it could be a textbook on how not to make a movie! There are so many loopholesthe dialog is frequently laughablea major subplot is nothing but a red herring and the acting is bad. Sharon Stonea year away from her breakout role in BASIC INSTINCTis just awful and if you hadn't seen her in other filmsyou'd never guess she could act. The only high spots are Anthony B. Richmond's (DON'T LOOK NOW) cinematography and the production design (Craig Stearns) and art direction (Randy Moore) which includes a fantastic art deco loft apartment. Alasnot the kind of bad movie which is fun in spite of itself. With Steve Railsback (in a dual role)Michelle PhillipsRonny Cox and Vicki Frederick.  

Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1959)

A married couple (Jeanne MoreauGerard Philipe) have an open marriage and indulge in extra marital affairs and discuss their conquests with each other after they've coldly ended the affair without any concern of the feelings of their partners. Based on the 1782 novel by Pierre Choderlos De Laclos and directed by Roger Vadim (AND GOD CREATED WOMAN). The De Laclos novel has been frequently adapted for filmtelevisionthe stageopera and even ballet. This 1959 film was the first film incarnation of the book although Vadim updates the story to present day France. The screenplay tends to be overly verbose but that is compensated by the central performances and Vadim's stylish direction. The film is fortunate to have such actors as Moreau and Philipe as its main characters because their characters are reprehensible and immoral but the the charisma they engender make the film a compelling watch. Quite shocking for its daythe movie couldn't be exported because of its content even though it was a box office sensation in France but it wasn't until 1961 that the film got a U.S. release. The score is by jazz great Thelonious Monk. With Jean Louis TrintignantAnnette Vadim (looking like Brigitte Bardot)Jeanne ValerieMadeleine Lambert and Nicolas Vogel.  

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Revenge Of The Pink Panther (1978)

The head (Robert Webber) of a major drug cartel in France takes it upon himself to assassinate the famous Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers). Howeverwhen a transvestite killer (Sue Lloyd) is killed instead and his body identified as Clouseauthe real Clouseau goes undercover. Directed by Blake Edwardsthis was the sixth entry in the PINK PANTHER franchise and Sellers' last performance as Clouseau (he passed away 2 years later). Although the film was a financial successthe series was beginning to show some exhaustion. The gags are uninspired and it seems no fresher thansayTHE FULLER BRUSH MAN with Red Skelton but with a bigger budget. When Burt Kwouk drives an out of control cart on the docks of Hong Kongyou wait for him to overshoot the dock and go into the water and like clockwork he does. When the cast runs into a fireworks factoryyou groan because it's so obvious and sure enoughexplosions everywhere. Dyan Cannon is always a welcome presence but she's totally wasted here. The rest of the cast includes Herbert LomRobert LoggiaPaul StewartTony Beckley and Adrienne Corri.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Das Indische Grabmal (aka The Indian Tomb) (1959)

When the dancer (Debra Paget) he loves runs away with another man (Paul Hubschmid)the Maharajah (Walter Reyer) of Eschnapur is determined to capture them and exact his revenge on them both including building a tomb to bury the woman alive! Meanwhilehis treacherous brother (Rene Deltgen) continues his plans to seize the throne for himself. Directed by Fritz Lang, this is the second half of what is referred to as Fritz Lang's Indian Epic. The movie has more action pieces than the first filmTHE TIGER OF ESCHNAPURwith treacheryrebellion and perhaps most impressive of all, scantily clad Debra Paget's near legendary snake dance. It's the one thing everyone seems to remember from the film. Quite erotic and daring for 1959this would never have made it into a Hollywood film of that era. Indeedwhen the film was finally shown in U.S. cinemasit was combined with TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR as one filmretitled JOURNEY TO THE LOST CITYseverely whittled down to 95 minutes and the snake dance edited. A satisfying conclusion to ESCHNAPUR and togetherboth films make for a grand movie-movie adventure. With Sabine Bethmann and Claus Holm.