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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Gipeuteodeu (akfa Gifted) (2014)

Set in South Korea, a young man (Kim Beom Joon) has been out of work for months when his girlfriend (Bae Junghwa) threatens to leave him because he has no money. So he turns to crime. First, it's just stealing cars but it soon turns to more violent crimes and murder. Not only is he sexually turned on by killing, he discovers he loves it so much that he can't stop even when he tries. Directed by Juhn Jai Hong (BEAUTIFUL), this is a unique portrait of a serial killer. Clearly Juhn is interested in the psychology and mindset of the killer, not in the actual murders which are discreetly filmed for the most part. There's an undertone of homoeroticism to the film. All of Kim's victims are male (in one shocking scene he masturbates after a murder) and Kim is frequently nude or in his underwear. Kim Beom Joon gives a terrific performance here. At times, charming, almost sweet and at times, horrifying. Juhn manages an exciting and intense scene toward the very end and it probably should have ended there but gives a little twist for a coda. With Jeon Yul.   

The Detective (1968)

A New York police detective (Frank Sinatra) is called to the scene of the brutal mutilation murder of a homosexual (James Inman). The case is solved rather quickly but perhaps too quickly as a further investigation into a suicide reveals a more complex scenario. Based on the novel by Roderick Thorp with a screenplay by Abby Mann (JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG) and directed by Gordon Douglas (TONY ROME). This is a rather startling movie to come out in 1968. One of the first Hollywood films to deal openly with homosexuality, its portrayal of the gay lifestyle isn't as bad as THE BOYS IN THE BAND (what could be?) but it's pretty close. However, Sinatra's protagonist rather than being homophobic seems quite understanding and even empathetic. His gentle interrogation of an unstable gay man (Tony Musante in a dreadful over the top performance) is beautifully done. Though its portrayal of gays is stereotypical of the era, there's an honesty about societal attitude toward homosexuals as when the killer states that he "felt more guilty about being a homosexual than a murderer." This was Sinatra's last great performance, he's wonderful here. In an underwritten role, Lee Remick as his nymphomaniac wife brings an unexpected depth. The large cast includes Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Duvall, Ralph Meeker, Al Freeman Jr., Jack Klugman, Lloyd Bochner, William Windom, Horace McMahon and Renee Taylor.  

Friday, June 29, 2018

Love Crazy (1941)

After his wife (Myrna Loy) suspects him of infidelity and starts divorce proceedings, an architect (William Powell) feigns insanity in the hope of delaying the divorce until he can get her back. Directed by Jack Conway (LIBELED LADY), this screwball comedy should be better considering the talent involved. But even with a tired script, it's amazing what the entire cast does with the material. Once again, in the age of the auteur theory and "the script's the thing" philosophy which tends to diminish the importance of the actors' contribution, it proves how important actors are. William Powell does some inspired work here (his hot shower scene had me laughing out loud), the man was a genuine comic genius. Myrna Loy is relegated to playing straight man to all the lunacy around her though she does have one good scene in the courtroom. The movie takes a bit to get its engine going but once it does, hilarity is plentiful. The first rate supporting cast is terrific and includes Jack Carson, Florence Bates, Gail Patrick, Donald MacBride, Sara Haden, Sig Ruman, Sidney Blackmer, Clarence Muse and Elisha Cook Jr.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

I Deal In Danger (1966)

During WWII, an American spy (Robert Goulet) infiltrates the German High Command by pretending to be a traitor. His mission is to thwart and undermine the Nazis while pretending to be a collaborator. Directed by Walter Grauman (LADY IN A CAGE). This film is actually cobbled together from four episodes of the unsuccessful TV series BLUE LIGHT which starred Robert Goulet and pieced to make a feature length movie. It isn't seamless because there are two distinct plot lines and as soon as one ends, another one begins. Still, the production values are high (it was shot in Bavaria, Germany) and although this is a 20th Century Fox film, Universal was making films during this period that looked like TV movies although they were shot for cinema showings and I DEAL IN DANGER looks no better or worse. The first portion of the film is stronger as it involves a Nazi official (Werner Peters) who suspects Goulet is a double agent. The weaker second portion concentrates on a plot to blow up a German weapons factory. I'm not much on war movies and while this is no WHERE EAGLES DARE, it's modestly enjoyable. With Christine Carere (A CERTAIN SMILE), John Van Dreelen, Donald Harron and Horst Frank. 

Quand Tu Liras Cette Lettre (1953)

Set in the seaside town of Cannes, an amateur boxer (Philippe Lemaire) makes money by hustling, theft and as a gigolo. But three women, an ex-nun (Juliette Greco) and her young sister (Irene Galter) and a wealthy society woman (Yvonne Sanson) will complicate his life with tragic results for all involved. Directed by Jean Pierre Melville (LE SAMOURAI), this melodrama seems atypical of Melville's later work. It takes awhile for the film to pick up its rhythm which keeps us off balance as to what direction the film is heading. This being Melville, the relationships are complex and no one emerges unscathed. The film's male protagonist is a real bastard, the kind who knows he's catnip to the ladies and takes advantage of them. He's impossible to like though Melville makes an attempt to redeem him as much he can but how can one forgive a rapist and a murderer? Of course, Melville doesn't romanticize any of this and its dour outcome is as inevitable as ANNA KARENINA. With Daniel Cauchy as a bellhop, the only other male with a substantial role in the film and just as amoral as Lemaire.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Sherlock Holmes And The Secret Weapon (1942)

Set during WWII, Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) helps smuggle a scientist (William Post Jr.) out of Switzerland before the Nazis get to him. However, once safe in London, he is kidnapped by Holmes' nemesis Professor Moriarty (Lionel Atwill) who plans to turn him over to the Nazis. Can Holmes get to him in time? Nominally based on THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN by Arthur Conan Doyle and directed by Roy William Neill. I found this to be one of the lesser entries in Universal's Sherlock Holmes film franchise. It's not a murder mystery but a spy movie with Sherlock Holmes being used for a WWII propaganda film. Nothing wrong with that, such films were prolific during the war years in Hollywood. But it just isn't intriguing enough to hold our interest. As a spy film or even as a WWII propaganda movie, it's sluggish even at its brief hour and 9 minutes running time. There's no atmosphere, no curiosity in its inevitable jingoistic outcome. With Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson, Kaaren Verne and Paul Fix.  

Please Don't Eat The Daisies (1960)

After her husband (David Niven) becomes one of the seven most important theater critics in New York, a wife (Doris Day) finds her life considerably changed and not for the better. On top of all of this, the family relocates from Manhattan to the country with disastrous results. Based on the best selling book by Jean Kerr (wife to famed theater critic Walter Kerr) and directed by Charles Walters (GOOD NEWS). A delightful vehicle for Doris Day with a little more subtext than most of her other romantic comedies. Notably, professional criticism. In this case it's theater but it could easily be art, music, literature etc. This nugget is placed in a sitcom setting, indeed, a few years later it was turned into a TV sitcom. Fortunately, the child actors here don't display the "cutes" but come across a believable kids rather than child actors. Being an MGM film, it looks suitably glamorous what with Robert Bronner's CinemaScope lensing and Morton Haack's costumes. The excellent supporting cast includes Janis Paige (almost stealing the movie), Spring Byington, Richard Haydn, Jack Weston, Patsy Kelly, Margaret Lindsay and Carmen Phillips. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Reincarnation Of Peter Proud (1975)

A young wife (Margot Kidder) murders her husband (Tony Stephano) because of his multiple infidelities and cruelty. Almost 30 years later, a college professor (Michael Sarrazin) has nightmares about a man being murdered by his wife. Slowly, he begins to suspect that he may have been that man in a prior life and he attempts to track down the woman. Based on the novel by Max Ehrlich (who adapted his novel for the screen) and directed by J. Lee Thompson (GUNS OF NAVARONE). Thompson is responsible for one of the best thrillers of the 1960s, CAPE FEAR. Unfortunately, he doesn't bring the feverish intensity from that film here and this could have used it. The premise is compelling enough to keep us watching to see how it will play out but this could have been a much better film. As it is, it's eminently watchable but this could have been a classic thriller. There is one genuine great thing in the film and that's Margot Kidder's performance. Kidder plays both the young wife and the older widow and her performance is seamless. There's a nice Jerry Goldsmith score that helps. With Jennifer O'Neill as the murdered man's daughter, Cornelia Sharpe and Steve Franken. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Hours (2002)

Three different women, three different decades are connected by the novel MRS. DALLOWAY by Virginia Woolf. In 1920s England, Woolf (Nicole Kidman) suffering from a bipolar disorder struggles to write her novel MRS. DALLOWAY. In the 1950s, a California housewife (Julianne Moore) feels trapped in an unhappy marriage and has thoughts of suicide. In 2001 Manhattan, an editor (Meryl Streep) takes care of her dying friend (Ed Harris) and former lover. Based on the Pulitzer prize winning novel by Michael Cunningham and directed by Stephen Daldry. This is a beautifully crafted film with an emotional punch and complex characters impeccably played by a first rate cast and some extraordinary performances. I remember seeing it for the first time in December 2002 with a friend and when it was over, we were both so overwhelmed that we literally couldn't speak. 16 years later, it still delivers. David Hare's screenplay is literate and concise without ever crossing over into pretentiousness. Mention must be made of the superb Philip Glass score which is as much a part of the film's fabric as its screenplay and performances. The impeccable cast includes Allison Janney, Miranda Richardson, Jeff Daniels, Eileen Atkins, Claire Danes, Toni Collette, John C. Reilly, Margo Martindale, Stephen Dillane and Jack Rovello.  

The Kissing Bandit (1948)

In early 19th century California, a young man (Frank Sinatra) attempts to fill his late father's shoes. His father was a notorious outlaw known as The Kissing Bandit but the young man is shy and not cut out for the job. Complications ensue when he falls in love with the daughter (Kathryn Grayson) of the Governor of California (Mikhail Rasumny). Directed by Laszlo Benedek (THE WILD ONE), this is a rather tedious musical. Its humor is sophomoric and the musical numbers are a mixed bag. It's great to look at, Robert Surtees' (THE GRADUATE) three strip Technicolor lensing just pops off the screen with both the rustic Kennedy Meadows locations and Randall Duell's art direction on the MGM sound stages. The two musical highlights are dance numbers. Sono Osato's seductive whip dance and especially the Dance Of Fury performed by Cyd Charisse, Ricardo Montalban and Ann Miller. Sinatra has one good song, the lovely Siesta, but alas we also have to put up with the high pitched shrills of Ms. Grayson. There's a nice comic performance by J. Carrol Naish but they've saddled him with a false nose that distracts from his performance. With Mildred Natwick, Clinton Sundberg and Billy Gilbert.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Narrow Margin (1952)

A Los Angeles cop (Charles McGraw) is assigned the task of accompanying a gangster's hard boiled widow (Marie Windsor) on a train from Chicago to L.A. The mob is after her because she has a payoff list that can incriminate them. Directed by Richard Fleischer (20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA), this classic example of film noir is a lean (not an ounce of fat, i.e. padding out the story) thriller. The economical screenplay by Earl Felton was justifiably Oscar nominated and Fleischer pushes the action forward at an intense pace. I'm a big fan of thrillers and murder mysteries set on trains and this ranks with the best. The performances are good right down the line with noir icons McGraw and Windsor pitch perfect. I was a bit disappointed that Windsor's character was pretty much ignored after her final scene considering what she's been through but this is a film without sentiment. Unusual for a film of its day, it has no underscore. Remade in 1990 but with significant changes. With Jacqueline White, Don Beddoe, Queenie Leonard and Peter Virgo.  

Monday, June 18, 2018

Dutchman (1966)

A disturbed blonde (Shirley Knight) spots a middle class black man (Al Freeman Jr.) in a nearly deserted subway car and proceeds to both seduce him and ridicule his conservatism and "white" ways. Based on the play by Amiri Baraka (writing under the name of Le Roi Jones) and directed by Anthony Harvey (THE LION IN WINTER). Written during the rise of black nationalism, Baraka's play is very much of its time. It's not a naturalistic play, even in 1966 it could only work as a stylized allegory. Knight's Lula is a crazy woman that any normal person would go out of their way to avoid yet Freeman's Clay not only seems attracted to her but engages in a dialog with her. Its symbolism is rather heavy handed as Knight munches apple after apple and offers them to Freeman as we think, "Ah, she is Eve and offering him the forbidden fruit that will be his downfall." We know it will be only be a matter of time before his black rage against the white man will come spewing forth. Meanwhile, the fellow passengers that have boarded all sit quietly like the background actors that they are ignoring the histrionics. What holds the film together now are the superb performances by both Knight and Freeman who inhabit their characters with a commitment that is impressive. The brief but highly effective underscore is by John Barry. 

La Morte Ha Sorriso All'assassino (aka Death Smiles On A Murderer) (1973)

Set in 1906 Austria, an unmarried young woman (Ewa Aulin) dies in childbirth. The father (Giacomo Rossi Stuart) of the child is a rich man who abandoned her. Her brother (Luciano Rossi) who has been molesting her for years resurrects her dead body to life. Hell hath no fury like a woman bent on revenge! Directed by Joe D'Amato, this film is often mistakenly referred to as a giallo when it has more in common with Corman's Poe films from the early 1960s. Of course, it has more gore and graphic sex than Corman's Poe films ever did. The film has an unsavory aspect to it as it not only features incest but disemboweled bodies, needles stuck into eyes, homicidal felines, people buried alive, shotgun blasts to the face etc. But D'Amato knows his audience and it's hard to turn away, you're compelled to watch. There's no denying its effectiveness. The film features a neat little twist at the very end. The faux Morricone score is by Berto Pisano. With Klaus Kinski (creepy as ever), Sergio Doria, Angela Bo and Attilio Dottesio. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Portrait Of A Dead Girl (1970)

A New Mexico lawman (Dennis Weaver) is escorting a prisoner (Shelly Novack) from New Mexico to New York City. But in transferring the prisoner to the local authorities, the lawman is attacked and his prisoner kidnapped. Back in the day, the major networks would often do TV movies to check out the potential of turning them into weekly TV series or as a way of hooking viewers when it eventually became a TV series. An unofficial spin off of the 1968 Don Siegel film COOGAN'S BLUFF, this would be titled MCCLOUD and seven months later debut as a series on NBC. This is the usual "fish out of water" premise of a rural cowboy finding himself in an urban landscape with the typical problems of coping with a different environment. Dennis Weaver tends to overdo the country boy bit but audiences ate it up for seven years. The plot is dragged out to feature length but would be better served in a concise one hour episode. The cast includes Julie Newmar, Raul Julia, Diana Muldaur, Craig Stevens and Peter Mark Richman   

Ocean's Eight (2018)

Just paroled from prison, a woman (Sandra Bullock) contacts her former partner in crime (Cate Blanchett) to convince her to join her in a heist that she spent five years in prison planning. The prize? A $150 million dollar diamond necklace! Directed by Gary Ross (PLEASANTVILLE). In terms of pure pleasure, this may be the most enjoyable movie I've seen so far this year. It's the kind of movie that does the work for you so you can give your brain a rest and enjoy the mindlessness of it all and focus on the performances, the style and the humor. I probably won't remember most of it six months from now but for an "in the moment" movie, it's perfect. The female fueled cast are wonderful, even Cate Blanchett, probably my least favorite living actress. She's smart enough to realize this isn't the kind of movie where you need to act and she's relaxed and it's a relief to see her not emoting with a capital A. If anyone steals the picture though, it's Anne Hathaway as movie star who's the target of the heist but Helena Bonham Carter is also terrific as a ditzy high fasion designer. Slick and fun about sums it up. The massive cast includes James Corden, Sarah Paulson, Dakota Fanning, Rihanna, Elliott Gould, Mindy Kaling, Katie Holmes, Elizabeth Ashley, Awkwafina, Marlo Thomas, Griffin Dunne, Dana Ivey and Richard Armitage.   

Needful Things (1993)

A mysterious stranger (Max Von Sydow) arrives in a small town in Maine and opens an antiques store. Soon after, violent and destructive actions begin to occur and the townspeople start turning against each other. Coincidence? Based on the novel by Stephen King and directed by Fraser C. Heston (Charlton's son). This black comedy starts off promisingly and its first hour sets up the premise and has us anticipating the mayhem but the second hour is a huge letdown. Heston can't quite seem to balance the inherent unpleasant undertone of the situation with the over the top slyly comic wickedness. Is skinning a dog out of spite ever funny? There's apparently a longer cut that has been shown on TV but I suspect that it just extends the unpleasantness. As it is, the film is highly watchable though bordering on overstaying its welcome. Some of the performances are very good. Von Sydow of course but you expect that but also J.T. Walsh and Amanda Plummer stand out. There's also a marvelous score by Patrick Doyle that aids the film immeasurably. With Ed Harris, Bonnie Bedelia and Ray McKinnon. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Zombies Of Mora Tau (1957)

A wealthy American (Joel Ashley), along with his wife (Allison Hayes) and crew, journeys to Africa in search of a sunken ship reputed to have a cache of diamonds aboard. What he wasn't prepared for were the zombies protecting the diamonds from being taken. Directed by Edward L. Cahn, this low budget bottom bill programmer is from the Sam Katzman factory so you know it's a cheapie. Whoever thought that underwater zombies was a good idea? I suppose it works as a kitschy creature feature if you're in a forgiving mood but boy, is it dull. Hayes' bitchy wife seems like she could save the movie if they'd only let her rip but she's turned into a zombie far too early. As for the other actors, with one exception, they're a sorry lot. The one exception is Marjorie Eaton as the grandmother who uses an actor's resources to bring a surprising authority to the movie, it's certainly not in the script. With Gregg Palmer as the film's "hero" (you may have problems differentiating him from the zombies), Autumn Russell and Morris Ankrum. 

The Night Of The Hunter (1955)

Set during the depression era of the 1930s, a serial killer (Robert Mitchum) masquerading as a preacher courts lonely widows with money then murders them after marriage. His latest victim is a woman (Shelley Winters) whose husband stole and hid $10,000 before being hanged. She doesn't know where the money is but her young son (Billy Chapin) and daughter (Sally Jane Bruce) do. Based on the novel by Davis Grubb and directed by the actor Charles Laughton, sadly his only film as a director. Shockingly dismissed by both audiences and to a lesser extent critics when it opened, this is a great film. Certainly not without flaws and some weak performances but not to the film's detriment.  It's a film that's not easy to categorize. Part allegory, part noir, part horror but always intense. The often expressionistic cinematography by the great Stanley Cortez (MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS) is stunning. Visually, the children's escape down the river is pure cinemagic and only the walk through the cane fields in I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE comes even close. And Mitchum in possibly his greatest performance is magnificent here as is Lillian Gish as a bible quoting country woman taking in stray children. As the children, Chapin is good but Sally Jane Bruce is embarrassingly amateurish but after all, she is just 5 years old. The superb score is by Walter Schumann. With Evelyn Varden, James Gleason and Don Beddoe.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Importance Of Being Earnest (1986)

Two friends discover that they have invented fictional beings in order to avoid social responsibilities. One (Paul McGann) has invented an irresponsible brother and the other (Rupert Frazer) invented a sickly friend. However, this deception comes back to haunt them when their respective loves (Amanda Redman, Natalie Ogle) discover the deceptions. Based on the 1895 farce by Oscar Wilde and directed by Stuart Burge. Wilde's most popular (and most performed) play is so cleverly constructed that one could almost assume it's fool proof. On the page, it is. Its unraveling often comes because of the performances and direction. Wilde's characters are often notoriously self centered and snobbish so charm and line delivery are key to accepting their characters. In this particular production, Frazer's Algy is charmless and his line readings turn wit into lumps of dough so that he comes across as unappealing and as Cicely, Ogle's comedic skills aren't obvious. Two of the actors, however, seem to understand Wilde perfectly. Redman's Gwendolyn shows shrewdness in her performance and Joan Plowright as Lady Bracknell seems born to play her. With Alec McCowen and Gemma Jones.

Doctor Blood's Coffin (1961)

After being kicked out of medical school for unethical experiments, a young doctor (Kieron Moore) returns to the small Cornwall village of his youth to help his doctor father (Ian Hunter) out. But that doesn't mean he's stopping those horrid experiments. Written by Nathan Juran (7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD) and directed by Sidney J. Furie (THE IPCRESS FILE), this is yet another riff on Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN with a touch of THE MONKEY'S PAW thrown in. The film delivers very few thrills with only one moment of genuine horror. In fact, it plays out more like a murder mystery although we know from the beginning who is responsible for a series of deaths. Stephen Dade (ZULU) does a nice job of rendering the Cornwall seaside and its caves in vivid Eastman color and the score is provided by Buxton Orr (SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER). Die hard horror fans should find much to enjoy here. With lovely Hazel Court exercising her "scream Queen" lungs and Kenneth J. Warren. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Sandanju No Otoko (aka Man With A Shotgun) (1961)

A drifter (Nitani Hideaki) arrives in a mountain logging village looking for the men who raped and killed his fiancee. Directed by Seijun Suzuki, the film seems off. It's entertaining enough but it comes across as a remake of an American western updated to contemporary Japan, only with drugs substituting for gold. Our hero is a sort of modern day Japanese Roy Rogers as he sings and plays the accordion while protecting the virginity of the film's heroine (Izumi Ashikawa), who's also the film's drippy conscience. Shigeyoshi Mine's lensing of the stunning Japanese mountain scenery is a highlight. It's not one of Suzuki's better films but it stands as a modest if often derivative entertainment on its own. With Yuji Kodaka, Akio Tanaka, Eiji Go and as the film's "bad" girl, Yoko Minamida who I infinitely preferred to Ashikawa's good girl.    

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Let's Make It Legal (1951)

On the eve his divorce becomes final, a man (Macdonald Carey) attempts to woo his wife (Claudette Colbert) back. Things get even more difficult when her old flame (Zachary Scott) comes back into town and they rekindle the embers. Based on MY MOTHER IN LAW MIRIAM by Mortimer Braus and directed by Richard Sale. Colbert is an expert farceur and has a slew of classic screwball comedies to prove it. She attempts to spin her usual magic but this is strictly TV sitcom stuff and she can't elevate the material. It doesn't help that she has zero chemistry with the dull Macdonald Carey who doesn't have a comic bone in his body. For material like this to work at all, she'd need someone her equal in both star status and comic ability and Carey doesn't fit the bill. The cast includes a young Marilyn Monroe who makes the most of her brief screening time and Robert Wagner as Colbert's son in law and he hasn't developed his smooth comedic timing yet. With Barbara Bates (ALL ABOUT EVE), Kathleen Freeman and Frank Cady. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Lodger (1944)

In 1888 London, the serial killer known as Jack The Ripper is terrorizing the local population. When a mysterious medical researcher (Laird Cregar) rents a room in a London home, the wife (Sara Allgood) suspects the new lodger may be the man known as Jack The Ripper but her husband (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) and her niece (Merle Oberon) disparage the idea. Based on the novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes which was previously made as a silent film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1926 and directed by the undervalued John Brahm. Rich in atmosphere with a marvelous production design by James Basevi and John Ewing and shrouded in foggy black and white cinematography by Lucien Ballard, the film is a showcase for Laird Cregar who makes for a disturbing psychopath. Cregar doesn't overdo it. In fact, he's almost repressed which makes his sudden outbursts all the more terrifying. Even that scene stealer George Sanders as a Scotland Yard detective pales beside him. Oberon is lovely and projects fear very well. The score is by Hugo Friedhofer. With Queenie Leonard, Doris Lloyd and Helena Pickard.  

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Baxter! (1973)

After his mother (Lynn Carlin) divorces his father (Paul Maxwell), a young boy (Scott Jacoby) unwillingly moves with her to London. It doesn't help that his mother is an abusive alcoholic and that he has a speech impediment that makes him self conscious. Based on the novel THE BOY WHO COULD MAKE HIMSELF DISAPPEAR by Kin Platt and directed by Lionel Jeffries. I've not read the source material but the film is a clumsy concoction. I felt bad that I didn't like the kid much which made it harder to commiserate with him. The movie goes into some very dark areas like the lack of empathy from his abusive mother yet we're also treated to some light hearted moments like Jacoby singing and dancing with Jean Pierre Cassel and Britt Ekland as a young couple who befriend him and take him under their wing. The contrast seems artificial. It's the kind of movie that telegraphs like when one of the characters suddenly starts coughing without an explanation and you know they'll croak before the movie ends. I didn't much like Jacoby's performance but the rest of the cast is good especially Carlin. With Patricia Neal as a speech therapist, Sally Thomsett (STRAW DOGS) and Ian Thompson. 

The Ghost And Mr. Chicken (1966)

A type setter (Don Knotts) at a small town newspaper has ambitions to become a full fledged reporter. When he writes a small filler about a supposedly haunted house, he gets his chance but only if he spends the night in the house. After his success on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW (he won 5 Emmys), Knotts made a series of low budget comedies for Universal pictures and this one is the best of the bunch. It plays to his strengths and it's reminiscent of a couple of comedies Bob Hope made at Universal in the 30s and 40s, CAT AND THE CANARY and GHOST BREAKERS. This one has a lot of charm and some wonderful sight gags and a great supporting cast of familiar faces. My favorite was Reta Shaw as the head of a local occult club who becomes near orgasmic when she touches Knotts. Knotts' leading lady, the charming Joan Staley is a blonde but she's given a brunette wig here to make her less sexy. Directed by Alan Rafkin. The wonderful supporting cast includes Lurene Tuttle, Dick Sargent, Skip Homier, Liam Redmond, Charles Lane, Philip Ober, Nydia Westman, George Chandler and Ellen Corby.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Faisons Un Reve (aka Let's Make A Dream) (1936)

An unmarried lawyer (Sacha Guitry) attempts to seduce a married woman (Jacqueline Delubac) and she seems pleased with the idea. But a night of bliss turns problematic when they fall asleep and she hasn't returned home. What will they tell her husband (Raimu)? Based on the play by Sacha Guitry which he adapts for the screen and also directs. Except for the brief prologue, Guitry makes no attempt to disguise the movie's theatrical origins. It's not a cinematic film and Guitry even has a near 20 minute monologue with no one else on stage but him. But he's a marvelous comic actor so you don't mind the theatricality of the scene and speech. The film's farcical elements are all in place and the three actors' timing is impeccable though clearly Delubac isn't as skilled as Guitry or Raimu, she's charming. With Arletty, Michel Simon and Claude Dauphin who appear briefly in the film's prologue. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Hereditary (2018)

An artist (Toni Collette) is coping with the death of her mother even though they had a difficult relationship. Shortly after the funeral, her daughter (Milly Shapiro) shows disturbing signs that she might be communicating with her deceased grandmother. But it will be her son (Alex Wolff) who will be the conduit to the their horrible fate. Written and directed by Ari Aster in his feature film debut, the film is full of fire and fury and as long as Toni Collette is on the screen, it remains an intense experience. But Collette, whose performance is magnificent, can only do so much and the film eventually peters out into silliness. Last week I saw FIRST REFORMED which held me in its grip until its laughable conclusion and while HEREDITY's finale isn't as bad as that, it's pretty trivial. The film works best as a drama of a family in crisis as it battles guilt and grief yet unable to communicate with each other. The horror element seems so much fright mayonnaise spread over a family drama sandwich. I don't mean to sound as if I didn't like it, I did. But the overly languorous pacing had me fighting nodding off rather than holding my breath in fear. The most disappointing horror film since THE BABADOOK. With Gabriel Byrne and Ann Dowd.    

Something's Got To Give (1962)

After being shipwrecked on a desert island for five years, a woman (Marilyn Mornoe) returns home to find out she's been declared legally dead and her husband (Dean Martin) is on a honeymoon with his new wife (Cyd Charisse). A remake of the 1940 screwball comedy MY FAVORITE WIFE and directed by George Cukor. This is an unfinished film. There were a myriad of problems with Monroe not showing up on the set for various reasons and Cukor shooting around her until eventually, she was fired. Fox attempted to replace her with Lee Remick but Martin refused to work with anyone but Monroe. An agreement was made to begin filming again with Jean Negulesco replacing Cukor but Monroe died before the new filming could begin. It eventually was reshot completely and released in 1963 under the title MOVE OVER DARLING with Doris Day. The footage we have left shows us what might have been. Monroe looks gorgeous, svelte and sexy and she has her first nude scene in the film but who knows if it would have made the final cut. The cast includes Phil Silvers, Tom Tryon, Steve Allen and Wally Cox.

The Mind Benders (1963)

A government scientist (Harold Goldblatt) commits suicide by jumping off a speeding train. Evidence points to him as supplying secrets to Communists. But his colleague (Dirk Bogarde) suspects his death is tied in to experiments in sensory deprivation. To prove his point, he agrees to undergo the same experiment as the deceased scientist. What follows is a sadistic and manipulative result. Directed by Basil Dearden (VICTIM), this is a disturbing and unsettling combination of sci-fi and thriller. The film bears a striking resemblance to Ken Russell's 1980 film ALTERED STATES which is far superior in its handling of the subject matter. This one is very good but enough flaws in it that spoil one's enjoyment of it. Mainly the character of Bogarde's wife played by Mary Ure who comes across as a dishrag unable to function without her husband's approval. But the premise is intriguing if its execution is slightly pedestrian. The underscore is by Georges Auric. With John Clements, Michael Bryant, Wendy Craig, Geoffrey Keen and Edward Fox.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Double Indemnity (1944)

In 1938 Los Angeles, an insurance salesman (Fred MacMurray) is attracted to the wife (Barbara Stanwyck) of one of his clients (Tom Powers). Together, they plot the murder of her husband made to look like an accident so they can get $100,000 in insurance money. Based on the novella by James M. Cain and directed by Billy Wilder, who co-wrote the screenplay with Raymond Chandler. This is one of those very rare movies that are sheer perfection. You can't fault it. I don't think you can even nitpick. Well, maybe the drippy daughter played by Jean Porter but that is nitpicking. The script, the acting, the cinematography, the Miklos Rozsa underscore, the editing are all flawless. This is the film that defines film noir and certainly John Seitz' B&W lensing set the standard for what noir should look like. All three leads (the third is Edward G. Robinson as MacMurray's colleague) at the peak of their talents and it's easily the best performance MacMurray has ever given. Stanwyck's calculating femme fatale set the benchmark for all future noir temptresses. With Porter Hall, Byron Barr and Fortunio Bonanova.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Little Eyolf (1982)

A frustrated writer (Anthony Hopkins) has decided to put his latest book aside and concentrate on raising his young son (Timothy Stark) to the consternation of his wife (Diana Rigg) who feels the child stands in the way of their relationship. Based on the 1894 play by Henrik Ibsen and directed by Michael Darlow. I can't help but wonder if Edward Albee had read LITTLE EYOLF as there's more than a little of Ibsen's play in Albee's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?. Certainly the cruel love/hate relationship of Hopkins and Rigg resembles Albee's George and Martha and they go at it with claw and hammer. In fact, there are two other characters, a sister (Emma Piper) and her suitor (Charles Dance) who stand in for Albee's Nick and Honey. I can see why it's not performed as frequently as Ibsen's more well known plays like HEDDA GABLER or A DOLL'S HOUSE. It's an unsettling downbeat piece though it has great roles for the two lead actors. It's powerful stuff but not exactly a pleasant experience. With Peggy Ashcroft, who makes the most of her one scene.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Tea With Mussolini (1999)

In 1935 Florence, a group of expatriate English women live in a small close knit community. Their unofficial social leader is a bossy dowager (Maggie Smith). But their position in Italy is precarious as the rise of Mussolini (Claudio Spadaro) and fascism threaten the normalcy of their lives. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli on whose biography the film is very loosely based. This is a thoroughly charming film enhanced by first rate performances by its lead actresses as well as the expert cinematography of David Watkin (OUT OF AFRICA) which captures the beauty of Florence in all its glory. Although based on Zeffirelli's memoirs, I suspect most of the film is embellished for dramatic effect. Zeffirelli's stand in here is called Luca and played by two actors, Charlie Lucas as a child and Baird Wallace as a young man. The film is rich in detailed characters including Cher as a wealthy American playgirl, Judi Dench as an artist, Lily Tomlin as a lesbian archaeologist and Joan Plowright as a spinster. Also with Paolo Seganti, Paul Chequer and Tessa Pritchard.  

Monday, June 4, 2018

Dressed To Kill (1946)

Three inexpensive but identical music boxes are sold at an auction to three different people. But soon one of the owners is killed for it while another owner is robbed of it. What is the secret of the music boxes and why are they so "valuable"? Calling Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce)! Loosely based on ADVENTURES OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and directed by Roy William Neill. One of the better entries in Universal's Sherlock Holmes franchise. At this stage of the game, Rathbone and Bruce so inhabit Holmes and Dr. Watson that all they have to do is show up but fortunately they give a little more effort than that. This is one of the Holmes mysteries that give Holmes an opponent worthy of him. The film's sultry villainess as played by Patricia Morison is clever and ruthless and almost gets the best of Holmes. Even if you're not a fan of the Holmes films, there's much to enjoy here. With Edmund Breon, Mary Gordon and Harry Cording.

Experiment In Terror (1962)

Set in San Francisco, a psychotic killer (Ross Martin) forces a bank teller (Lee Remick) to steal $100,000 from her bank. He threatens both her and her kid sister (Stefanie Powers) if she tries to contact the police. Despite his threats, she contacts the FBI and an agent (Glenn Ford) works with her to ensnare the psychopath. Based on the novel OPERATION TERROR by Gordon and Mildred Gordon (who also did the screenplay) and directed by Blake Edwards. This is a superior thriller worthy of Hitchcock at his best. Beautifully shot in B&W by Philip Lathrop (THE PINK PANTHER), who does the most spectacular things with shadows and light and with a creepily intense underscore by Henry Mancini. Edwards takes his time and lets the film unfold at a leisurely pace but it never feels slow or padded out. That's because he uses the pacing for detail. Example: there's an interview between Ford and a woman (Patricia Huston) who may know something about the case. But what's most interesting about the scene isn't the dialog but the unspoken sexual tension between the two characters. One of the seminal thrillers of the 1960s. With Clifton James, Ned Glass and Roy Poole.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Yellow Mountain (1954)

Two partners (Lex Barker, Howard Duff) run a saloon as well as own a gold mine. They make a rich strike but another mining magnate (John McIntire) has his eye on taking over their mine. Add a pretty girl (Mala Powers) that both partners have their eye on and something's got to give. Based on NEVADA GOLD by Harold Channing Wire and directed by Jesse Hibbs. This western programmer is pretty forgettable even for die hard western buffs. Visually, it has an authentic look courtesy of cinematographer George Robinson (SON OF FRANKENSTEIN) which captures the mud and dust of a drab gold mining town but that's about the best I can say for it. With William Demarest and Leo Gordon.

Sparkling Cyanide (1983)

When his wife (Christine Belford) is poisoned by cyanide in her champagne at their anniversary party, her husband (Josef Sommer) is determined to find out who murdered her. When he throws a party inviting the exact same guests, this time it is he who is poisoned by cyanide in his champagne glass. Will their be a third victim? Based on the Agatha Christie novel and directed by Robert Michael Lewis. This isn't one of Christie's best novels and the film makers make the mistake of not only updating the story from the 1940s but relocating it from England to Los Angeles. They've also gussied it up with things like a murder attempt on water skis, something Christie never would have done. They've also cast Anthony Andrews as a journalist (a character not in the book) to romance Deborah Raffin as the recipient of the murdered woman's fortune when the Christie source material had no romantic angle. Renowned mystery writer Sue Grafton is credited among the script writers but the screenplay is petty flat. When will film makers realize Christie knew what she was doing and stop trying to update or modernize her work? With Nancy Marchand, Pamela Bellwood, Harry Morgan, David Huffman and June Chadwick.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Postcards From The Edge (1990)

After an overdose of pills and cocaine, an actress (Meryl Streep) is placed in rehab. When she is ready to return to work, she finds out that the insurance company will only insure her if she lives with her mother (Shirley MacLaine), herself a famous movie star. The tension of living with her demanding mother and trying to get off drugs is almost too much. Can she do it? Based on the semi autobiographical novel by Carrie Fisher and directed by Mike Nichols. While its hard not to draw parallels to Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds, the film stands on its own as both a mother/daughter tale of rivalry and resentment but also as a story of Hollywood excess and drugs. Streep and MacLaine are both excellent here and director Nichols infuses the film with his particular brand of comedic wit. That it never feels exploitative is a tribute to both Fisher's screenplay and Nichols' firm direction. Both Streep and MacLaine get to perform musical numbers with MacLaine's rendition of Sondheim's I'm Still Here a particular standout. With Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss, Dennis Quaid, Annette Bening, Rob Reiner, Mary Wickes,Oliver Platt, C.C.H. Pounder, Conrad Bain, Dana Ivey and Gary Morton.  

How Do I Love Thee? (1970)

A college professor (Rick Lenz, CACTUS FLOWER) flies to France to see his dying father (Jackie Gleason). While on the plane, he reflects on his childhood and the difficulty of being raised by an atheist father and a religious fanatic mother (Maureen O'Hara). Based on the novel LET ME COUNT THE WAYS by Peter De Vries and directed by Michael Gordon (PILLOW TALK). A potentially interesting premise yields an uninteresting movie. This being 1970, you know it's just a matter of time before the atheist comes around to the way of the Lord. Gleason isn't half bad doing a juggling act with both (mostly) comedy and drama with some assistance from O'Hara and Shelley Winters as a potential mistress. But every time Rick Lenz is on the screen, the movie sucks. His expressionless monotone deliveries sucks the life out of the movie and this is a film that needs all the oxygen it can get. The film did give me one big belly laugh but that wasn't enough to sustain me through the whole movie. With Rosemary Forsyth and Don Beddoe.  

First Reformed (2018)

An ex-military chaplain (Ethan Hawke) is going through a personal crisis. Currently, he is the pastor of a small historical church with a sparse parish. When a pregnant woman (Amanda Seyfried) asks him to counsel her depressed husband (Philip Ettinger), it will challenge his beliefs to their core. Directed by Paul Schrader, this is easily his best film since MISHIMA back in 1985. Make no mistake about it, this is a political film with an agenda but it's done with passion and artistry as opposed to those godawful Stanley Kramer social message movies. Are churches now corporations rather than places of God? Is the destruction of our planet the result of man's greed or is it God's plan? It's a provocative and challenging film about ideas and in many ways, it's as ascetic as an Ingmar Bergman movie. In fact, it's even shot in the old 1.37 Academy ratio rather than wide screen. This being a Paul Schrader film one expects a fiery conclusion and the ominous chords on the soundtrack are foreboding. But then Schrader does something unforgivable. He sabotages his own movie with a laughable ending. Was he just jerking us around before? I'd like to think he just couldn't think of a decent ending so he gave us the crap he came up with. It just about ruins the movie though. I suggest leaving about 5 minutes before the movie ends. With Cedric Kyles (usually billed as Cedric The Entertainer), Michael Gaston and Victoria Hill.  

The Day Of The Locust (1975)

In 1930s Hollywood, a recent Yale graduate (William Atherton) is hired to work as an art director at Paramount pictures. On his own time, he works on a large scale painting depicting the destruction of Los Angeles by fire. Based on the novel by Nathanael West and directed by John Schlesinger (MIDNIGHT COWBOY). Schlesinger's direction is often too heavy handed for the material, subtle he's not. The film's set piece is a stunning finale in which a mob goes insane at a movie premiere and a mini apocalypse transpires. West's novel was about how people flocked to L.A., the city of sunshine and oranges, during the great depression only to discover the American dream didn't exist. Indeed, West even suggests they weren't even worthy of it if it did exist. The film is severely compromised by the miscasting of Karen Black, who at 35 is way too mature for the novel's 17 year old sexpot. The roles cries out for a young Marilyn Monroe. Black's performance is inauthentic. Sure, she's playing an often pretentious artificial character but even in the scenes where she's supposed to be sincere, she still comes across as artificial. The film does have two terrific performances however: Donald Sutherland as a slow witted Midwesterner and  Burgess Meredith as an ex-vaudeville performer on his last legs. Flawed but worth seeking out. With Geraldine Page, Billy Barty, Natalie Schafer, Bo Hopkins, Nita Talbot, Jackie Earle Haley and Lelia Goldoni.  

Friday, June 1, 2018

Les Risques Du Metier (1967)

In a small French village, a school teacher (Jacques Brel) is accused of attempted rape by one of his female students (Delphine Desyeux). This is soon followed by accusations by two other students (Nathalie Nell, Chantal Martin) of sexual misconduct. Based on the novel by Jean and Simone Cornec and directed by Andre Cayatte. Not the first film of its kind, movies about students accusing teachers goes all the way back to William Wyler's THESE THREE in 1936. But this one is set up as a mystery. We can guess at the motivation of the first accuser but why the other two? At times, the film feels like a variation of Arthur Miller's play on the Salem witch trials, THE CRUCIBLE. This was the film debut of the renowned singer Jacques Brel and his acting is very strong. You'd never know he was a singer not an actor and that this was his first film. There's another strong performance by Emmanuelle Riva (HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR) as his loyal wife. His innocence is never in doubt so the element of did he or didn't he is never a factor. The ending is rather conventional. With Rene Dary, Christine Fabrega and Nicole Desailly.