Search This Blog

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949)

With the help of a convict (Dan Duryea), a San Francisco based U.S. Treasury agent (Howard Duff) goes undercover to help expose a narcotics ring working out of Arizona. Directed by William Castle (HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL), this routine noir crime thriller is amiable enough to pass the time with but not essential film noir. Although third billed, it's Dan Duryea's title character who gets our attention rather than Duff's stiff as a board federal agent. It's an opportunity for Duryea to expand his usual tough guy persona. When they meet, it appears that Duff's law and order guy will be our "hero" but as the movie progresses, it's Duryea's character that proves to have more humanity and heart than Duff's by the book law officer. So who does Shelley Winters as a mobster's moll end up with? You'd be surprised! As a mute (so his Bronx accent won't distract) assassin, Tony Curtis (billed as Anthony Curtis) in only his third movie manages to hold the camera without saying a word. A sure sign that a future star was in the making. With John McIntire, Barry Kelley and Leif Erickson.

The Six Sided Triangle (1963)

The eternal triangle of wife, lover and husband as seen through the lens eye of six different countries: Arabia, England, France, Italy, Japan and Sweden. The same three actors play the wife (Sarah Miles), lover (Nicol Williamson) and husband (Bill Meilen) in all six stories. Written and directed by Christopher Miles (VIRGIN AND THE GYPSY), the film was nominated for an Academy Award as best short subject (it's thirty minutes long). The stories often take on the look of their respective country's film makers and/or stars. For example, the Swedish segment is clearly a homage to Ingmar Bergman and in the French segment, Sarah Miles is done up to look like Brigitte Bardot. The dialogue is minimal, it's practically a silent film. There is some brief dialogue in the English segment and occasional subtitles or intertitles on the others. A slight but clever cinematic conceit that should prove catnip to film buffs.

A Time For Loving (1972)

Set in Montmartre in the years before and during WWII, three love stories that take place at different times in a Parisian loft: 1) two former lovers (Susan Hampshire, Mark Burns) who meet again after fifteen years are startled by the changes in each other. 2) a young medical student (Joanna Shimkus) has an affair with a much older married doctor (Mel Ferrer). 3) a businessman (Philippe Noiret) finds his time stretched beyond limits by the demands imposed on him by his wife (Eleonore Hirt), his mistress (Britt Ekland) and his mother (Jany Holt). An original screenplay written by playwright Jean Anouilh (BECKET) and directed by Christopher Miles (PRIEST OF LOVE). Although it's a British film, there's a Gallic charm throughout the three movie romances. As with all portmanteau films, some stories are better than others (though none are bad) and the winner here is the third tale with Philippe Noiret in good form as a harassed husband trying to please the the three women in his life and pleasing none of them. The suitably romantic score is by the great Michel Legrand who has a supporting role in the movie as a music student with a crush on Britt Ekland. With Lila Kedrova and Rene Kolldehoff.

Monday, June 27, 2022

A King In New York (1957)

Deposed by a revolution in his own country, a King (Charles Chaplin) arrives in New York almost penniless. He reluctantly becomes a celebrity after appearing on television and uses his fame to earn money and support himself. Written and directed by Chaplin, this was his first film after he was exiled from the United States by the notorious House Of Un-American Activities. His last movie LIMELIGHT (1952) had been a modest success in the American cities where it had been released but this film (taking place in New York but filmed in England) was not released in the United States. A comedy about U.S. life in the fifties and most notably, the HUAC hearings. As a comedy, it's hit and miss much of the time but it's a better film than it's reputation would suggest. But then again, I would say that about his much maligned swan song A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG too. Chaplin's satire of American TV commercials and movie coming attractions are amusing but some of the slapstick like the fire hose in the elevator are dim. Chaplin casts his own son Michael as a young boy whose parents are targeted by the HUAC for their communist past. With Dawn Addams, Maxine Audley, Sid James and Oliver Johnston.

Benedetta (2021)

Set in 17th century Italy, a young nun (Virginie Efira) has visions of Jesus Christ and stigmata appears on her body. She is also carrying on an affair with a fellow nun (Daphne Patakia). Based on the non fiction book IMMODEST ACTS: THE LIFE OF A LESBIAN NUN IN RENAISSANCE ITALY by Judith C. Brown and directed by Paul Verhoeven (BASIC INSTINCT). Loosely based on an actual case, the film comes with an artsy sheen but really, with Verhoeven behind the camera it's a high toned nunsploitation movie! In between the somber tale of corruption in the Catholic church, we're treated to graphic nun on nun sex, nuns stripped nude and tortured and Efira even gets to make out with Jesus. Verhoeven wants his cake and to eat it too! But I much prefer the outrageous outlandishness of Ken Russell's THE DEVILS (1971) to Verhoeven's solemnity. There is one good performance by Charlotte Rampling as the mother abbess. She brings a sorely needed touch of class to the project. In a nutshell, I quite enjoyed the film but you didn't fool me, Verhoeven. With Lambert Wilson and Louise Chevillotte. 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Blue Bird (1940)

Set in Germany during the Napoleonic Wars, the selfish and spoiled daughter (Shirley Temple) of a woodcutter is told by a fairy (Jessie Ralph) to search for the blue bird of happiness. On this quest, she and her younger brother (Johnny Russell) visit the past, the future and a life of luxury. Based on the play by Maurice Maeterlinck and directed by Walter Lang (THE KING AND I). 20th Century Fox's Technicolor answer to MGM's THE WIZARD OF OZ from the year before is a cloying fantasy which has none of the musical elan, magical imagery or vivid performances of the 1939 movie and this is coming from someone who's not a big WIZARD OF OZ fan. In the end, both movies have the same dubious lesson to be taught. In the film, Temple's pet dog and cat are given human form. The film indulges in the stereotypical attitude of the dog (Eddie Collins) being loyal and man's best friend while the cat (Gale Sondergaard) is sneaky and not to be trusted. Alfred Newman's score is every bit as syrupy as the movie itself. The film was a deserved flop and it and Temple's follow up film, YOUNG PEOPLE effectively ended her reign at the box office. It was remade in 1976 with George Cukor at the helm. With Spring Byington, Nigel Bruce and Laura Hope Crews.   

Saturday, June 25, 2022

The Grass Is Greener (1960)

An impoverished British earl (Cary Grant) and his wife (Deborah Kerr) have opened their ancestral estate to the public in order to make some money. When an American millionaire (Robert Mitchum) walks in and sweeps the wife off her feet, the Englishman must decide a course of action. Based on the play by Hugh and Margaret Williams (who adapted their play for the screen) and directed by Stanley Donen (CHARADE). This somewhat stagnant drawing room comedy owes a lot to Noel Coward so it's no coincidence that Coward's music is used as the film's underscore. The play was a popular hit in London's West End but was never brought to Broadway. Donen does very little to open up the movie's theatrical origins preferring to let the dialogue carry the picture. As a film, it's a testament to Star power. It's a talky piece with only the occasional barbed wit to punch it up but with genuine movie stars like Grant, Kerr, Mitchum and Jean Simmons (dressed by Dior and stealing the movie as a gin sipping chatterbox) in the four leads, it's eminently watchable. With Moray Watson recreating his stage role as the butler.

Je Serai Seule Apres Minuit (aka I'll Be Alone After Midnight) (1931)

To get revenge on her philandering husband (Roger Blum), a wife (Mireille Perrey) decides to take a lover for one night. To this end, she sends off a barrage of balloons over Paris attached with a note stating, "I'll be alone after midnight" along with her name and address. Based on a novel by Albert Jean and directed by Jacques De Baroncelli. Co-written by Henri Georges Clouzot (LE CORBEAU), this is an enchanting musical (songs by Philippe Pares and Georges Van Parys). It may be a slight piece of musical French fluff but De Baroncelli's direction breezes it along and it's easy to fall under its romantic sorcery. Nonsense really but served up with such charm that it's near irresistible. I don't want to oversell it, it's not a "must see" but it's witty and sexy and you could do a lot worse. With  Pierre Bertin, Vanah Yami, Maurice Remy and Georges Bever.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Project: Kill (1976)

An agent (Leslie Nielsen) of a covert government agency that has been using drugs to enhance the mental and physical performance of its agents realizes that his men are being used as assassins rather than protecting government officials. When he goes rogue and bolts the agency, his second in command (Gary Lockwood) is sent to bring him back alive or else terminate him. Directed by William Girdler (THE MANITOU), this rather silly actioner is one of many low budget U.S. movies shot in the Philippines in the late 1960s and early 1970s utilizing Hollywood actors in the leads and Filipino actors in supporting roles as well as using Filipino crews. There are some karate fights but the violence is minimal. We see the aftermath of several violent killings but not the killing itself. Romance is provided by Nancy Kwan (for Nielsen) and Pamela Parsons (for Lockwood) but they're time fillers rather than important to the plot. With Vic Diaz and Vic Silayan.

The White River Kid (aka White River) (1999)

Set in Arkansas, a con man (Bob Hoskins) passes himself off as a holy monk doing God's work. His sidekick is an illegal Mexican immigrant (Antonio Banderas) with ambitions toward being a lawyer. Their lives are interrupted when they fall in with a serial killer (Wes Bentley) that the con man feels fatherly toward, much to the annoyance of his sidekick. Based on the novel THE LITTLE BROTHERS OF ST. MORTIMER by John Fergus Ryan and directed by Arnold Glimcher (THE MAMBO KINGS). A highly uneven attempt at mixing comedy with a disturbing undercurrent of corruption and violence. The film sees the serial killer as an innocent which may explain why Hoskins' con man takes him under his wing but I saw Bentley's character as dangerously mentally ill. With one exception, the movie also views its Southern characters as stereotypical backward rednecks. The exception is Ellen Barkin as a mysterious blind prostitute. The film never quite gets it right which is a pity because in more assured hands, this could have been an offbeat sleeper of a black comedy. Released theatrically overseas in Europe and Asia, it went straight to home video and cable in the U.S. With Beau Bridges, Swoosie Kurtz, Randy Travis and Kim Dickens.