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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Sensation Seekers (1927)

A small town girl (Billie Dove) travels with the fast set and has earned herself a bad reputation among the prudish locals. When a handsome minister (Raymond Bloomer) takes over the parish, they find themselves attracted to each other but their opposing lives and viewpoints stand in their way. Based on the short story EGYPT by Ernest Pascal and directed by Lois Weber. In recent years, the prolific Lois Weber (she directed over 200 movies) has been championed as one of the unsung directors of the silent era. This film's interest lies in its depiction of small town gossips almost destroying the reputation of its minister because of the appearance of "evil" when he spends time with the wild flapper. The film benefits from Billie Dove in the central role. She's enormously appealing and gives a naturalistic performance. Alas, the film eventually becomes tiresome because of its religious bent (Weber came from a devout Christian family). The film ends with a spectacular shipwreck. With Huntley Gordon, Peggy Montgomery and Edith Yorke.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Between Two Worlds (1944)

Set during WWII, a group of disparate passengers in England are sailing to America on a mysterious luxury liner. But it's only a matter of time before they discover they're all dead and they're not going to America! Based on the play OUTWARD BOUND by Sutton Vane (previously filmed in 1930) and directed by Edward A. Blatt, a dialogue director who only only directed two other minor films. Oy! Heavy handed and pretentious doesn't begin to cover it. It's an odd film to have come out of 1940's Warners. MGM would have been a better fit as they occasionally dabbled in this sort of stuff (A GUY NAMED JOE, STRANGE CARGO). For two hours, we're subjected to characters pontificating rather than any realistic conversation. I cringed for the poor actors delivering the dialogue, it's unplayable. Faye Emerson and Isobel Elsom manage not to embarrass themselves but good actors like John Garfield, Eleanor Parker and Paul Henreid fail miserably. Even the great Erich Wolfgang Korngold delivers a forgettable score. It might have worked better on the stage where we don't find out the characters are dead until the end of the play. Here, we find out 12 minutes into the movie. Others in cast include Sydney Greenstreet, Edmund Gwenn, Sara Allgood, George Coulouris and George Tobias.  

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Maverick (1994)

A gambler and con artist (Mel Gibson) is short $3,000 for the tournament entry fee to a high stakes poker game and he has just four days to come up with the money. Matters aren't helped by his two traveling companions: a pretty poker player (Jodie Foster) who has a penchant for picking pockets and a lawman (James Garner) who who has his eye on him. Inspired by the 1957 television series (which starred Garner) which had a five year run and directed by Richard Donner (THE OMEN). This amiable western comedy is handicapped by a bloated running time (it runs over two hours) which could have used some judicious editing shears. For example, the whole anachronistic Indian sequence with Graham Greene could have been eliminated or at least trimmed down. Gibson and Garner get a chance to duel with their comedy chops and Foster is charming. But just about everyone double crosses everyone repeatedly so that it becomes tiresome rather than amusing. You think how dumb can these people be if they keep getting had all the time. The score is by Randy Newman. The large supporting cast include James Coburn, Alfred Molina, Danny Glover, Margot Kidder, Robert Fuller, Doug McClure, Clint Black and William Marshall.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

20 Million Miles To Earth (1957)

After the first U.S. spaceship to Venus crash lands off the coast of Sicily on its return home, debris reaches the coastline where a small boy (Bart Braverman) discovers a cylinder containing a gelatinous mass. The boy sells the mass to a doctor (Frank Puglia) who discovers the mass contains a creature from Venus ..... and he's rapidly growing! Directed by Nathan Juran (7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD), the primary reason for watching this film is Ray Harryhausen's Venusian creature, a marvel that is one of his very best creations. The film itself is a rather dull concoction when the creature isn't around, the humans are a dreary bunch. I found the Venusian visitor very sympathetic. He didn't ask to be removed from his planet and taken to Earth where he's put in a cage then drugged so he can be studied and eventually hunted down and killed. With William Hopper, Joan Taylor and Thomas Browne Henry.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Splash (1984)

The owner (Tom Hanks), along with his brother (John Candy), of a wholesale produce business finds himself unable to commit to a relationship. This changes when he meets a mysterious statuesque blonde (Daryl Hannah). What he doesn't know is that she's a mermaid! Directed by Ron Howard, this charming Oscar nominated (best original screenplay) romantic comedy/fantasy remains one of the best romcoms of its era. This is due in no small part to the central performances of Hanks and Hannah, strong enough that SPLASH became the breakthrough film in their careers. As Hanks' obnoxious brother, John Candy is ..... obnoxious but this was the 1980s when obnoxiousness was considered funny for some reason. The film is rather adult in its execution (Hannah's brief nudity, sexual innuendoes) but kids will enjoy it as much as the grown ups. There's a beautiful theme song sung by Rita Coolidge over the end titles. With Eugene Levy, Dody Goodman, Howard Morris, Bobby Di Cicco and Shecky Greene.   

Cast A Dark Shadow (1955)

A man (Dirk Bogarde) murders his much older wife (Mona Washbourne) when he believes she's cutting him out of her will when in actuality, she was planning a new will leaving him all her money and cutting out her sister. Left penniless, he marries a coarse older widow (Margaret Lockwood) with money but she's a match for him. Based on the play MURDER MISTAKEN by Janet Green (MIDNIGHT LACE) and directed by Lewis Gilbert (ALFIE). This is a nifty little thriller with a perfectly cast Bogarde just oozing malevolence. But the film belongs to Lockwood, known for playing ladylike parts, who's cast against type here. Her performance got her a BAFTA nomination for best actress but the movie was a flop and she wouldn't do another film until 21 years later. Lewis Gilbert keeps the intensity tight but the film's finale is sloppy. The film portrays Bogarde as a crafty wife killer but at the end, he makes a really stupid mistake that no one as clever as he would ever make. With Kay Walsh, Kathleen Harrison, Robert Flemyng and Lita Roza. 

Monday, May 10, 2021

La Cage Aux Folles (1979)

A middle aged gay couple are the owner (Ugo Tognazzi) and the star (Michel Serrault) of a popular drag club in Saint Tropez. When their son (Remi Laurent) announces he is going to marry the daughter (Luisa Maneri) of a right wing politician (Michel Galabru), they attempt to be more conservative and redecorate their flamboyant home into a more austere residence and, of course, hide their true sexual identities. Based on the play by Jean Poiret and directed by Edouard Molinaro. An international hit and an arthouse success in the U.S., it was popular enough to spawn two sequels, an American remake (THE BIRDCAGE) and a Broadway musical. Some 40 years later, its stereotyping of gay culture diminishes it somewhat but it remains a hilarious farce with a standout performance by Serrault, who won the Cesar (the French Oscar) for his performance here. With Carmen Scarpitta, Benny Luke and Claire Maurier.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Two Sisters From Boston (1946)

Set at the turn of the 20th century, an aspiring opera singer (Kathryn Grayson) from Boston takes a job as a burlesque performer at a Bowery dive to make ends meet. When her snooty Boston relatives hear of it, they rush to New York to bring her back home. Directed by Henry Koster (THE ROBE), this musical comedy is fine as long as it sticks to the comedy and the music hall songs and ambience but when we get to the opera and Grayson's shrieking starts, bring out the aspirin. Fortunately, there's double talking Jimmy Durante for laughs and June Allyson as Grayson's kid sister for perkiness. Curiously, although the movie's settings cry out for Technicolor, MGM had it shot in B&W but the public flocked to it anyway and it was one of MGM's biggest hits of the year. There is one bit of sexism that riled me. As the opera company's star, Lauritz Melchior chastises his leading lady for her excess weight while ignoring the fact that he could lose a few pounds himself! With Peter Lawford as the priggish romantic interest, Ben Blue, Isobel Elsom and Thurston Hall.

History Is Made At Night (1937)

After his wife (Jean Arthur) leaves him, a pathologically jealous millionaire (Colin Clive) frames his wife's lover (Charles Boyer) for murder and blackmails his wife into staying with him or else he'll turn her lover in to the police. Directed by Frank Borzage (THE MORTAL STORM), this is one of the greatest of movie romances to come out of Hollywood. When filming started, there was no finished screenplay and the Titanic inspired finale was written into the film a mere two weeks before it was filmed (which necessitated re-filming some earlier scenes for it to make sense). It's a hybrid of a film, really: part romantic comedy, part thriller, part disaster movie, part film noir, part melodrama. That it works at all is something of a miracle. But work it does and its lyrical romanticism is pure Borzage. Both Boyer and Arthur are working outside of their comfort zone. No longer a wise cracking comedienne, Arthur brings a genuine pathos to the wife attempting to escape an abusive marriage and Boyer brings a warmth and humor to an ordinary man (not the French lover cliche). You're rooting desperately for this pair to find happiness together as circumstances work against them. With Leo Carrillo (who almost steals the film) and Ivan Lebedeff.

Sherlock Holmes In Washington (1943)

When a British courier (Gerald Hamer) carrying top secret information is kidnapped from a train in the U.S., the renowned detective Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) is asked to come to America to investigate the disappearance. Directed by Roy William Neill, this isn't based on any of the Arthur Conan Doyle books but an original screenplay. 1943 was in the thick of WWII so everyone had to do their duty including Sherlock Holmes, so Holmes is plucked out of the late 19th century and plopped into current day Washington D.C. to fight Nazis. While it lacks the atmosphere of the period Holmes movies, this is actually one of the better Holmes films. George Zucco and Henry Daniell, who play the villains here both played Professor Moriarty in the Holmes franchise (Zucco in 1939 and Daniell in 1945). The film's romantic interest are played by Marjorie Lord and John Archer, who were married in real life and their union produced the actress Anne Archer. With Clarence Muse and Thurston Hall.