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Sunday, January 31, 2021

Red Mountain (1951)

Set in 1865 Colorado during the waning days of the Civil War, a gold assayer (Dan White) is killed and the townspeople suspect an ex-Confederate soldier (Arthur Kennedy) and form a posse to find him. When he's found, the posse turns into a lynch mob and the ex-soldier is saved by a mysterious stranger (Alan Ladd). Directed by William Dieterle (1939'S HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME), this historical western begins promisingly enough but it can't sustain itself and around the halfway mark turns into a dullish routine western. It's a pity because the players are good and the movie looks quite handsome with the New Mexico locations shot in vibrant Technicolor by Charles Lang (GHOST AND MRS. MUIR). But the tiresome plot of Southern loyalists fighting to the bitter end gets old real fast. In a change of pace, instead of playing the noir femme fatale, Lizabeth Scott plays the wholesome good girl which makes her less interesting as an actress. With John Ireland, Neville Brand, Jeff Corey and Bert Freed. 

Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951)

A small town English girl (Pauline Stroud) wins a local beauty contest posing as Lady Godiva. She's then entered into a bigger beauty pageant and wins a thousand pounds, a mink coat and a movie contract! But the road to stardom isn't that easy. Directed by Frank Launder (I SEE A DARK STRANGER), this sweet natured comedy suffers from the sexism of its era. Stroud's pageant winner starts off unsure of herself but later is determined to forge ahead in a career of her own in spite of her naysaying family. But ultimately that decision is taken away from her when an Australian he-man (John McCallum) takes matters into his own hands and like a caveman whisks her off the stage (literally) and into wedded bliss in the Australian outback. It leaves a bad taste in an otherwise innocuous comedy. The film is more interesting because of several other actresses in smaller roles who would go on to bigger screen fame than Pauline Stroud in the ensuing years: Kay Kendall, Diana Dors, Joan Collins, Dana Wynter and Anne Heywood. Also in the cast: Dennis Price, Stanley Holloway, Alastair Sim, George Cole, Sid James and Dora Bryan. 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Ray Meets Helen (2018)

Separately, two people who don't know each other stumble across money that doesn't belong to them. A down on his luck ex-boxer (Keith Carradine) turned insurance investigator and a lonely woman (Sondra Locke) struggling with financial problems. The money gives them the opportunity to reinvent themselves so when they meet for the first time, they are ready for a romantic relationship. Written and directed by Alan Rudolph. As a director, Rudolph is an erratic film maker. His quirky and unconventional style focuses on romantic relationships with eccentric characters in anomalous circumstances. At his best, the results can be delightful if plaintive gems like CHOOSE ME or SONGWRITER. At his worst, self indulgent and pretentious film making like WELCOME TO L.A. and TROUBLE IN MIND. This one is a mixture of both leaning to self indulgence and a sour ending. The film gets off to a shaky start and leaves us disconcerted until Ray and Helen finally meet and suddenly it turns into a wistful romance that can't seem to find its rhythm. This was Locke's first film as an actress in 17 years and she died shortly after the film was released theatrically. While it was nice to see her in a major role after so many years, her performance is handicapped by an inexpressive face which looks to be the result of plastic surgery (she was 72 but looks to be in her 40s). With Jennifer Tilly, Samantha Mathis, Keith David, Kim Wayans, Jack Noseworthy and Cynda Williams. 

Tuck Everlasting (2002)

Set in 1914, a teenage girl (Alexis Bledel) comes across a young boy (Jonathan Jackson) while walking in the woods. When his older brother (Scott Bairstow) comes across them, he panics and takes the girl forcibly to their parents (William Hurt, Sissy Spacek). For the family has a dark secret that must never be exposed. Based on the children's novel by Natalie Babbitt and directed by Jay Russell (MY DOG SKIP). The novel was a best seller and is now considered a classic of children's literature (I suppose some might refer to it as a "young adult" novel instead). The film makers decided to make it more attractive to teens by turning it into a romance which the book isn't. In the novel, the girl is 12 years old but the film makers have made her about 16 years so she could fall in love with the youngest member of the Tuck family and unrequited love takes center stage. Other than that, it stays reasonably faithful to the novel. For about 3/4 of the movie's running time, I found it charming and rather sweet but the last quarter bungles it. It's the kind of ending where the protagonist(s) needs to escape or risk getting caught yet there's a long goodbye as William Ross's sweeping underscore rises and I kept grumbling, "Move your ass, you ninny. Get out of there!". With Ben Kingsley, Amy Irving, Victor Garber with Elisabeth Shue doing the narration. 

Sylvia (1965)

A millionaire (Peter Lawford) hires a private detective (George Maharis) to investigate his fiancee, a well regarded poetess (Carroll Baker) with a hidden past. As he meets those who knew her, the private eye finds himself traveling down a very troubling road going from Pittsburgh to Mexico to New York and involving rape and prostitution. Based on the novel by E.V. Cunningham, a pseudonym for Howard Fast (SPARTACUS) and directed by Gordon Douglas (THEM). Made between the more notorious THE CARPETBAGGERS (1964) and HARLOW (1965), this more modest B&W Carroll Baker star vehicle is actually a better film than those two. The story is more intriguing (it plays out like a mystery) and the acting generally better. There's still some luridness about the film. An outraged Bosley Crowther in his New York Times review said the director and producer "should have their mouths washed out" but on the whole, I found the film engrossing if pedestrian. David Raksin (LAURA) wrote the lush score and there are LAURA elements in its screenplay: a detective investigating a woman and falling in love with her before he ever meets her. The solid cast of supporting players include Ann Sothern (in the film's best performance), Edmond O'Brien, Aldo Ray, Joanne Dru, Viveca Lindfors, Nancy Kovack, Lloyd Bochner and Connie Gilchrist.

Friday, January 29, 2021

The Snows Of Kilimanjaro (1952)

A hunter and writer (Gregory Peck) and his wealthy wife (Susan Hayward) are on safari in Africa when an infected wound threatens to kill him. As he drifts in and out of consciousness, he recalls the other women in his life including his first love (Ava Gardner) and a Countess (Hildegard Knef). Loosely based on the short story by Ernest Hemingway and directed by Henry King (THE GUNFIGHTER). A huge box office hit (it was the second highest grossing film of 1952) in its day and the critics were generous too. It hasn't held up well. The film uses the framework of the Hemingway story but that's about it, there's not much actual Hemingway in the movie. It adds characters and incidents not in Hemingway's story and finishes it off with a happy ending (unlike the Hemingway). Peck almost always did his best work under King's direction and he's very good here. The same can't be said for Gardner (beautiful but inadequate) or Hayward (her worst attributes as an actress on full display) though Knef brings a nice icy chill to her role as the Countess. On the plus side, the Technicolor Oscar nominated cinematography courtesy of Leon Shamroy (THE KING AND I) remains impressive and Bernard Herrmann's underscore does wonders to prop up the film. With Leo G. Carroll, Torin Thatcher, Marcel Dalio and Helene Stanley.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

La Belle Et La Bete (aka Beauty And The Beast) (1946)

On his way home, a man (Marcel Andre) plucks a rose in a castle garden to bring home to his daughter (Josette Day). But the garden belongs to a beast (Jean Marais) who tells the man that he must die for plucking the rose or else send his daughter to serve in his place. Based on the classic fairy tale by Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont and directed by Jean Cocteau (TESTAMENT OF ORPHEUS). Perhaps the most elegant of movie fantasies, Cocteau's film is an incomparable tapestry of striking images and poetry. A slice of magic that can appeal to both children (if they're old enough to read subtitles) and adults alike though for different reasons. It's a pity the tale has become Disneyfied (not a slam against Disney, I quite like their take on the fable) because Cocteau's version is so much more layered and contemporary audiences seem to embrace the simplification that Disney offers in its place. Not that Cocteau's film isn't without some minor flaws. I wish that Marais hadn't played two roles. He plays the avaricious friend of Beauty's brother (Michel Auclair) so when the Beast is revealed as the Prince, it cant help but be disappointing. The exquisite production design is by Christian Berard and Lucien Care and Georges Auric did the underscore. With Nane Germon and Mila Parely as Beauty's bitchy sisters. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Beverly Hillbillies (1993)

An Arkansas hillbilly (Jim Varney) discovers oil on his property and suddenly he's a billionaire. His cousin (Linda Carlson) urges him to move to Beverly Hills where his daughter (Erika Eleniak) would have the advantage of being turned into a proper young lady. Based on the hit TV series of the same name (it had a nine year run) and directed by Penelope Spheeris (WAYNE'S WORLD). It probably seemed a good idea at the time but the film is a weak imitation of the original TV show. Spheeris doesn't attempt to step up the quality of the humor, it's still as lowbrow as the television series which is actually a good thing otherwise it wouldn't be THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES. Where she goes wrong is in the use of characters not in the original show, specifically Rob Schneider and Lea Thompson as two sleazy con artists who attempt to dupe Varney out of millions. They're not remotely funny and the film hits a dead zone whenever they're on screen. With one exception, the actors make for a favorable comparison to their TV counterparts. The one exception is Lily Tomlin who would seem to be ideal casting for Miss Hathaway but seems uncomfortable in the role but Diedrich Bader as the brawny but dumb Jethro and Cloris Leachman as the feisty Granny do well. With Dolly Parton, Dabney Coleman, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Penny Fuller, Kevin Connolly and Leann Hunley.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Star Spangled Rhythm (1942)

A sailor (Eddie Bracken) thinks his father (Victor Moore) is the head of Paramount Pictures in Hollywood when in reality, he's a guard at the studio's entrance gate. When he gets shore leave, his girlfriend (Betty Hutton), who's a telephone operator at the studio, contrives to make the father look like a studio head by setting him up in an empty office on the lot. Directed by George Marshall (DESTRY RIDES AGAIN), this is yet another of those all star WWII morale boosters for the troops overseas and the civilians back home. Fortunately for contemporary viewers, this is one of the better examples. It's actually pretty funny and the musical numbers are good. The songs are by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen and the film introduced two standards, Hit The Road To Dreamland (sung by Dick Powell and Mary Martin) and That Old Black Magic (sung by Johnny Johnston and danced by Vera Zorina with choreography by Balanchine). The sketches are amusing and there's an amusing comedy sequence when Betty Hutton gets physically entangled with two guys trying to help her scale a wall. Alas, the film ends on a deadly note with Bing Crosby singing a jingoistic dirge. The massive cast includes Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Fred MacMurray, Ray Milland, Susan Hayward, Alan Ladd, Paulette Goddard, Veronica Lake, Dorothy Lamour, Franchot Tone, Macdonald Carey, William Bendix, Ellen Drew, Marjorie Reynolds, Anne Revere, Eddie Rochester Anderson, Katherine Dunham and Walter Abel.

Mimi (1935)

Set in 19th century Paris, the mistress (Gertrude Lawrence) of a successful middle aged actor (Austin Trevor) leaves him for a penniless struggling playwright (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.). She inspires him to create rather than indulge himself in his previous life of carousing with his Bohemian friends in cafes. Based on the novel LA VIE DE BOHEME by Henri Murger and directed by Paul L. Stein (THE LOTTERY BRIDE). Murger's book was the basis of the Puccini opera LA BOHEME, its most well known incarnation but Lillian Gish gave an excellent performance in a silent version in 1926 and it provided the source for the Broadway musical RENT and its story has inspired countless other films like Baz Luhrmann's MOULIN ROUGE (2001) among many others. This version is a rather awkward rendition. It captures the period wonderfully but the dialogue is stilted and then there's Gertrude Lawrence. A lauded and admired stage actress (she starred in the original productions of PRIVATE LIVES, LADY IN THE DARK, THE KING AND I), Lawrence was one of those stage actresses who didn't register well on film and she has zero chemistry with Fairbanks Jr. They do give her two songs to sing, however. With Diana Napier, Richard Bird, Carol Goodner, Harold Warrender and Norma Varden.

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Great Impostor (1960)

A high school dropout (Tony Curtis) joins the Army but his lack of education works against his career aim to become an officer. So he goes AWOL and under a fake identity with the right credentials, he joins the Marines. But when his ruse is discovered, he goes AWOL and fakes his death and takes on another identity ... and another and another and another! Based on the non fiction book on the exploits of Ferdinand Waldo Demara known as the Great Impostor by Robert Crichton and directed by Robert Mulligann (LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER). The film takes some of Demara's true life exploits and gussies it up as a light comedy with dramatic moments. I think we're supposed to be amused by Demara's escapades but this is a man who practiced medicine without a license, went AWOL from the military, faked his death  and much more yet the film portrays him as an impish adventurer who never intended anyone any harm and rewrites his life to make him a hero. As an actor, Tony Curtis has a great deal of charm but not enough to make me swallow this bilge. I might have bought it if the film makers took its subject more seriously (like Crichton's book) instead of turning it into fluff. The score by Henry Mancini is rather nice. With Karl Malden, Edmond O'Brien, Raymond Massey, Gary Merrill, Arthur O'Connell, Joan Blackman, Jeanette Nolan, Sue Ane Langdon, Frank Gorshin and Robert Middleton.

I Confess (1953)

Set in the Canadian province of Quebec, a Catholic priest (Montgomery Clift) hears the confession of a murderer (O.E. Hasse). When the priest becomes the primary suspect in the murder, he is bound by his vows not to reveal what he heard in the confessional. Based on the play OUR TWO CONSCIENCES by Paul Anthelme (although the screenplay cleans it up to be more acceptable to 1950s morality) and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Its premise is near irresistible so I was sorry I didn't like the film better. It seemed more heavy handed than usual for a Hitchcock film. I missed the glints of humor that infuses almost all his film making. As the priest, Clift's performance is enervated even when he's required to show emotion. Still, in spite of being second tier Hitchcock, the film is compelling in its presentation even though one is constantly aware of the script's contrivances. As the priest's ex-inamorata, Anne Baxter overcompensates for Clift's drained performance by nearly jumping out of her skin! The effective score is by Dimitri Tiomkin. With Karl Malden, Brian Aherne and Dolly Haas.  

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

A television crew is sent to a rural small town in Minnesota to do a documentary on a teen beauty pageant. But things turn deadly as the contestants mysteriously start being killed off. Directed by Michael Patrick Jann (his only feature film to date), this outrageous black comedy pulls no punches. Sure, beauty contests are an easy target but the film gleefully tosses aside political correctness and goes after the mentally challenged, the deaf, the gun culture as well as the beauty contest. The movie is yet another example of a film receiving mixed reviews on its original release that has become a cult favorite in the ensuing years. Its over the top lack of subtlety irked most critics who compared it unfavorably to SMILE (1975), another film satire on beauty pageants. But it's that very looney flamboyance that makes the film so funny. The cast gets it and they're all wonderful from Kirstie Alley as a right wing religious fanatic (who knew the film would be so prescient?) who'll stop at nothing to assure her snooty daughter (Denise Richards in her best film performance) wins the crown to Allison Janney as a beer drinking trailer trash neighbor. With Kirsten Dunst, Ellen Barkin, Amy Adams (in her film debut), Brittany Murphy, Adam West, Mindy Sterling, Nora Dunn, Mo Gaffney and Sam McMurray.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Je T'aime Moi Non Plus (1976)

A gay garbageman (Joe Dallesandro) finds himself attracted to an androgynous waitress (Jane Birkin) at a truck stop cafe much to the chagrin of his lover (Hugues Quester). But he can only consummate the relationship sexually by pretending she's a boy. Written and directed by Serge Gainsbourg, the film never received a U.S. release and caused a scandal in Paris and London. I found the film unpleasant though I suppose that's exactly what I was supposed to feel although my aversion may not have been the sort Gainsbourg intended. I couldn't help but feel Birkin was being exploited (she was Gainsbourg's lover at the time) even if she was a willing participant. Birkin's boyish girl is so besotted with the garbageman that she submits to painful and often humiliating sex to please him. Even though the sex is plentiful, I can't think of a more unerotic series of sex scenes. Clearly, Gainsbourg thought he was making something meaningful but LAST TANGO IN PARIS, it's not! Birkin's playing doormat to Dallesandro's selfish desires eventually renders her unappealing rather than sad. In fact, there isn't a single likable character in the film (unless its Birkin's pet pit bull) from Rene Kolldehoff's farting homophobe to Gerard Depardieu's creepy gay who boasts of his appendage sending his sexual partners to the hospital. Gainsbourg also composed the film's monotonous underscore. To the film's credit, I wasn't bored but still .....   

Wedding Present (1936)

Set in Chicago, two newspaper reporters (Cary Grant, Joan Bennett) are engaged to be married. But the bride to be is frustrated that the groom is a jokester and doesn't take anything seriously so she calls the marriage off. Based on a story by Paul Gallico (THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE) and directed by Richard Wallace (SINBAD THE SAILOR). This screwball romantic comedy seems promising and it starts off that way before going flat around the halfway mark. Cary Grant finally found his iconic persona and he's raring to go but he needs the right vehicle and this isn't it. It would come the next year with TOPPER and THE AWFUL TRUTH. With its newspaper background, this one seems like a weak dry run for HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940). Joan Bennett is up for it too but try as she might, there's no way she can surmount the anemic script and the clunky direction. The film's finale is pretty offensive unless you consider calling for fire engines and ambulances when there isn't any fire or accident funny! This isn't a pre-code film so I'm surprised that a gag about Grant going commando got past the censors. With George Bancroft, William Demarest, Conrad Nagel, Inez Courtney, Lois Wilson and Gene Lockhart.  

The Love Lottery (1954)

An internationally famous movie star (David Niven) owes a huge gambling debt. So when the head (Herbert Lom) of a gambling syndicate suggests he become the prize of a lottery in exchange for the gambling debt, he reluctantly agrees. Directed by Charles Crichton (A FISH CALLED WANDA), you rarely hear this one being discussed when talking about the popular Ealing comedies of the 1950s and with good reason. Its far fetched one joke plot is rather silly and padded out with dream sequences and musical fantasies. Shot in candy coated Technicolor by Douglas Slocombe (RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK), the film benefits from the Italian locations, notably Lake Como. Some of the film works especially its satire of the star system and the hysterical female fans who'll stop at nothing to meet their idol. The possibilities are there for a razor sharp spoof but the screenplay by Harry Kurnitz and Monja Danischewsky doesn't seem interested. With Humphrey Bogart, Peggy Cummins, Anne Vernon, Felix Aylmer and Gordon Jackson.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Ask The Dust (2006)

Set in 1939 Los Angeles, an Italian American writer (Colin Farrell) struggles to make a living although he has been published. When he meets a Mexican waitress (Salma Hayek), he's attracted to her but their relationship becomes contentious after getting off on the wrong foot. Based on the critically acclaimed novel by John Fante and adapted for the screen and directed by Robert Towne (an Oscar winner for his CHINATOWN screenplay). Towne botches the opportunity to make a faithful adaptation of Fante's novel. Towne turns it into a tragic romance. He takes the name of the female protagonist Camilla too literally turning her into Alexandre Dumas' Camille and coughing away as she dies of tuberculosis which isn't in the book. Towne's script emphasizes Camilla's struggle being Mexican in a white society while in the book the emphasis is on Bandini's (Farrell) attempt to hold his head high regarding his Italian heritage despite the racial abuse he received as a child growing up in Colorado. As it stands, the film isn't terrible, there are many good things about it. But ultimately, it's a failure. The period detail of 1930s Los Angeles is very well done, even more so since the movie was filmed in South Africa! With Donald Sutherland, Idina Menzel, Eileen Atkins and Justin Kirk. 

After The Fox (1966)

In Egypt, a thief (Akim Tamiroff) hijacks a gold shipment valued at three million dollars. But he needs someone to help him smuggle the gold into Italy. He makes a connection with a master criminal called The Fox (Peter Sellers) recently escaped from prison to help him. To this end, the Fox concocts a plan of making a movie as a cover. Written by Neil Simon (BAREFOOT IN THE PARK) with an assist from Cesare Zavattini and directed by Vittorio De Sica (MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE). Simon didn't have the clout at this point in his career to control his material and so De Sica and Zavattini made changes to Simon's broad comedy by adding "social" statements to the script. The film is spottily amusing throughout although it stumbles severely in the last 15 minutes. The film might have been better served by having someone like Blake Edwards rather than De Sica at the helm. The film received mixed reviews upon release but has emerged as a cult favorite in recent years. The movie comes close to being stolen by Victor Mature as a vain and aging Hollywood star. The perky underscore is by Burt Bacharach. With Britt Ekland, Martin Balsam, Maria Grazia Buccella, Paolo Stoppa, Maurice Denham, Lando Buzzanca and Lydia Brazzi (Rossano's wife, who was not a professional actress) as Sellers' mother.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Maltese Falcon (1931)

Set in San Francisco, a private detective Sam Spade (Ricardo Cortez) takes on a case that has his partner (Walter Long) killed in an alley. From that point on, the case becomes increasingly complicated as a group of disreputable characters attempt to seduce him into helping them in their pursuit of a fabulous falcon statue worth thousands. Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett and directed by Roy Del Ruth (ON MOONLIGHT BAY). This is the first filmization of Hammett's novel. It would be remade in 1936 under the title SATAN MET A LADY and in 1941, the definitive version directed by John Huston. As a pre-code film, this version gets away with its sexual references that the 1941 film skirts around. Other than that, the 1941 film is sheer perfection (particularly in its cast) and although both films share much of the same dialogue, Huston's impeccable direction and script raise the film to iconic status. This version is adequate, no more and the performances even less than that in most cases. Only Una Merkel as Spade's secretary brings a bit of spark to the proceedings. As cinema, it's an interesting footnote to one of the great American films. With Bebe Daniels, Dudley Digges, Dwight Frye, Otto Matieson and Thelma Todd. 

Tengoku To Jigoku (aka High And Low) (1963)

A wealthy executive (Toshiro Mifune) of a shoe company finds himself at odds with his board of directors and secretly makes plans to gain control of the company. But all this takes second place when the son (Masahiko Shimizu) of his chauffeur (Yutaka Sada) is mistaken for his son (Toshio Egi) and kidnapped in his place. Loosely based on the novel KING'S RANSOM by Ed McBain and directed by Akira Kurosawa. This is a terrific thriller worthy of Hitchcock (the similarities to THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH don't go unnoticed). Perhaps an atypical film in his filmography, obviously Kurosawa wasn't interested in making a mere thriller. The kidnapper (Tsutomo Yamazaki) is revealed to us about halfway through the film but his true motive isn't. That's saved for the very last scene. An intense and perfectly crafted film experience. With Kyoko Kagawa, Tatsuya Nakadai and Eijiro Tono.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Mayflower Madam (1987)

A young socialite (Candice Bergen) with roots going all the way back to the original Mayflower descendants is in a financial crisis after being fired from her job as a buyer for a department store. Reduced to answering the telephones for a sleazy "escort" service, she decides to begin her own escort service catering to a prestige clientele. Based on the autobiographical book by Sydney Biddle Barrows and directed by actor turned director, Lou Antonio. It's not an especially good movie but the story of a Manhattan socialite running a high class call girl service is just too fascinating not to be interesting. As Barrows, Candice Bergen fits the part to the manor born which brings a strong sense of authority to the project. There's not much you can say about a telefilm like this, it is what it is and accomplishes what it set out to do. While whether it was worth doing in the first place is another question. With Chris Sarandon, Chita Rivera and Caitlin Clarke (DRAGONSLAYER).  

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Loves Of Carmen (1948)

In 19th century Spain, a corporal (Glenn Ford) in the dragoons falls under the spell of a gypsy vixen (Rita Hayworth) that will prove fatal to both of them. Based on the novel CARMEN by Prosper Merimee (best known for Bizet's opera adaptation) and directed by Charles Vidor (GILDA). Handsomely shot in vivid three strip Technicolor by William E. Snyder (whose work here received an Oscar nomination), Vidor directs the movie towards a more realistic (well, for Hollywood anyway) style rather than a more "operatic" style that would conjure up images of its opera counterpart. The film suffers from a major piece of miscasting. Ford and Hayworth had a nice chemistry and made a total of four films together but he's egregiously out of place here. While Hayworth is convincing as a Spanish gypsy, Ford as a hot blooded Latin lover is absurd. Ford can do a simmering rage and revenge but romantic passion is out of his ken. Hayworth has an opportunity to go back to her roots as a Spanish dancer and does several flamenco numbers. The score is by Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco. With Victor Jory, Ron Randell, Luther Adler, Arnold Moss and Margaret Wycherly.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Cinderfella (1960)

When his father dies and leaves all his money to his stepmother (Judith Anderson), a young man (Jerry Lewis) is allowed to remain in the household as a servant to his stepmother and her two spoiled sons (Henry Silva, Robert Hutton). Based on the Cinderella fairy tale and written and directed by Frank Tashlin (THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT). Although not really a musical, this gender reversal of the Cinderella story is hampered by several generic songs written by Harry Warren and Jack Brooks that stop the movie dead in its tracks. That does not apply to the charming dance at the ball choreographed by Nick Castle. Lewis has several inspired bits showcasing his talent as a physical comedian including combing his hair in front of a mirror and his walk down the long stairs when he enters the ball. It's a Lewis vehicle all the way but Judith Anderson as the wicked stepmother doesn't give ground and manages to hold her own against Lewis. I just wish the film's humor had been more consistent and I'm not sure if that's Lewis's fault or Tashlin's. With Anna Maria Alberghetti as Princess Charming, Ed Wynn as the Fairy Godfather and Count Basie and his band. 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Big Heat (1953)

When a police officer on the take kills himself, he leaves a letter to the District Attorney exposing the corruption of the city's officials and the mobster (Alexander Scourby) behind the corruption. But the cop's widow (Jeanette Nolan) takes the letter and uses it to blackmail the mob boss and assure herself a life of comfort. The cop (Glenn Ford) assigned to the case finds his investigation stymied by superior officers who want the case closed. Based on the novel (which was first serialized in the Saturday Evening Post) by William P. McGovern and directed by Fritz Lang (FURY). This is one of the greatest of the film noir genre and considered by many to be Lang's greatest American film (though personally I prefer WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS). Lang rolls out the film in a series of scenes each building upon each other to a potent finale. Sydney Boehm's screenplay provides some razor sharp dialogue and gives even the most minor character a fleshed out identity. The acting is superb right down from Ford's cop to Dorothy Green, who has just one scene as a barfly. The film contains two unexpected acts of violence which must have shocked 1953 audiences right out of their seats. The first rate cast includes Gloria Grahame, Lee Marvin, Jocelyn Brando, Carolyn Jones, Peter Whitney, Adam Williams and Willis Bouchey.

Ava (2020)

A former drug addict and ex-soldier (Jessica Chastain) is working as an international assassin for hire. When a hit goes wrong, she begins to suspect that she is being set up. Directed by Tate Taylor (THE HELP), this action thriller is uneven. I can see why Chastain (who's one of the film's producers) would be attracted to a role like this. She gets to be both an action hero yet exercise her acting chops as a recovering addict with a dark past. The film's plot is often incoherent and doesn't make sense but who goes to a movie like this for a concise narrative? You want action and on this aspect, the film delivers spectacularly. It's the dramatic element where the movie fumbles. The portion dealing with Chastain and her unresolved issues with her mother (Geena Davis, inspired casting as she and Chastain are cut from the same cloth) works quite well but the subplot involving an ex-lover (Common) and her sister (Jess Weixler) only hinders the story. Chastain is terrific even if the script lets her down. The final showdown between Chastain and Colin Farrell is ludicrous. With John Malkovich, Joan Chen, Diana Silvers, Ioan Gruffudd and Christopher J. Domig.

I Bambini Ci Guardano (aka The Children Are Watching Us) (1943)

A young Italian boy (Luciano De Ambrosis) lives in a middle class condominium with his parents (Emilio Cigoli, Isa Pola). Although too young to understand the sexual connotations, the child becomes aware his mother is seeing a man (Adriano Rimoldi). Eventually, she abandons her family for her lover. Based on the novel PRICO by Cesare Giulio Viola and directed by Vittorio De Sica (GARDEN OF THE FINZI CONTINIS). This is a heart wrenching film. De Sica perfectly captures the world of a sensitive child caught up in an adult problem he can't fully grasp and eventually loses his innocence. The ending is a real kick in the gut. It's one of the very best performances I've seen by a child actor. The performances of Cigoli and Pola as his parents are wonderful too. At first, I was sympathetic to Pola as the mother and put off by Cigoli as the abrupt father but my positions changed as Cigoli proved to be a forgiving husband and loving father and Pola's mother proved herself to be a weak woman who gives in to her carnal desires and abandons the son who adores her. A devastating portrait of a family in crisis and how parents can screw up their kids. Highly recommended. With Giovanna Cigoli and Tecia Scarano.  

Friday, January 15, 2021

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)

In August 1939, tensions rise in the relationship between Japan and the United States which is accelerated when Japan allies itself with Germany and Italy. As the signs of war between the two countries advances, the Japanese plan an attack on the American fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Based on the non fiction books THE BROKEN SEAL by Ladislas Farago and TORA! TORA! TORA! by Gordon Prange and directed by Richard Fleischer (the American portion), Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku (the Japanese portion). Critically panned on its initial release, the film holds up quite well. The film eliminates any personal stories, there's no romance in the film, no big stars. It's an ensemble film told in a semi documentary fashion and this all works to the movie's advantage. The first half of the film focuses on the Japanese planning the attack and the U.S. overlooking the warning signs. After the intermission, the film focuses on the attack on Pearl Harbor. Even though we know what happened, it plays like a tense "race against time" thriller. The screenplay is adequate, no more but this isn't the kind of film that depends on its dialogue. It's the three directors that form the film's structural skeleton and propel the narrative forward (Jerry Goldsmith's score helps). I did find the "humor" inserted in the Pearl Harbor attack not only lame but offensive. The massive cast includes Jason Robards, Joseph Cotten, Martin Balsam, James Whitmore, E.G. Marshall, Wesley Addy, Edward Andrews, Keith Andes, Richard Anderson, Leora Dana, Jeff Donnell, George Macready, Leon Ames, Neville Brand, June Dayton and on the Japanese side: So Yamamura, Tatsuya Mihashi, Eijiro Tono and Susumu Fujita.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Nefertiti, Queen Of The Nile (1961)

In ancient Egypt, a sculptor (Edmund Purdom) is in love with a young girl (Jeanne Crain) who is being groomed as a priestess. The high priest (Vincent Price) finds out about their romance and has the sculptor arrested for the priest intends the girl to marry the Pharaoh (Amedeo Nazzari) and become the Queen of Egypt. Directed by Fernando Cerchio, this slice of peplum is only marginally a historical drama. There's not much factual data in the film but plenty of nonsense and it culminates in the storming of the palace by insurrectionists. If you're partial to Italian sword and sandal epics then this should go down nicely (it's only 90 minutes long). It's a handsome looking film courtesy of cinematographer Massimo Dallamano (FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE) and the three Hollywood lead actors dutifully do what they were hired for: Crain to look beautiful, Price to ham it up with wickedness and Purdom to basically play THE EGYPTIAN again. I have a penchant for this sort of claptrap (so sue me!) so I had a good time viewing it. With Liana Orfei and Carlo D'Angelo.

The Sign Of The Cross (1932)

It's Rome in the year 64 A.D. and a Roman prefect (Fredric March wearing more eyeliner and lipstick than his leading lady) finds himself falling in love with a Christian girl (Elissa Landi) even though it's his duty to arrest her. Based on the play by Wilson Barrett and directed by Cecil B. DeMille at his most hypocritically pious. DeMille treats us to such delicacies as Christians getting tortured, stamped on by elephants, gored by bulls, eaten by alligators, nubile maidens raped by gorillas, pygmies skewered on swords, decapitations, etc. all the while proclaiming the glory of Christ! This piece of camp should be more fun than it is but the scenes with the sanctimonious Christians are a thudding bore! The movie perks up in the scenes with Charles Laughton (looking like a debauched cherub) as Nero and Claudette Colbert as the decadent Poppaea (her nude scene bathing in ass's milk is a hoot). The wickedness is portrayed as so much more enjoyable than the piety that DeMille defeats his intended purpose. Romans 10, Christians 0. MGM would do this sort of thing so much better in 1951 with QUO VADIS. With Ian Keith, Tommy Conlon and Nat Pendleton.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

White Tiger (1923)

A trio (Priscilla Dean, Wallace Beery, Raymond Griffith) of jewel thieves employ a chess playing automaton to gain entry into the homes of the wealthy. But two of them (Dean, Griffith) have a back history together that they don't know about. Co-written and directed by Tod Browning (FREAKS), an intriguing premise is poorly played out. The film whips up a bit of suspense later in the movie when the three thieves are holed up in a cabin amid signs their relationship is unraveling but by that time, it's too late to save the movie. The appealing Dean and Beery are fine but Griffith, who should be a sympathetic character plays his role like a snake oil salesman. The film would have benefited by a stronger underscore than the tinkling piano given us by Andrew Earle Simpson. For connoisseurs of silent cinema only. With Matt Moore and Alfred Allen.

Justine (1969)

Set in France just before the revolution, two young sisters, Justine (Romina Power) and Juliette (Maria Rohm) are turned out of a convent when their mother dies and their father flees the country. While Juliette leads a wicked life (including murder) rising from prostitute to the mistress of a government official, Justine is raped, tortured, mutilated and held prisoner while attempting to lead a life of virtue. Based on the infamous novel by the Marquis De Sade and directed by sleaze master Jesus Franco. Who knew perversion could be so tedious? If there were any artfulness to the film, I'd call it softcore porn masquerading as art but there's no artistry in sight. The film is a mess! I've nothing against trash and, in fact, have enjoyed some of Franco's sleazy films (99 WOMEN, VENUS IN FURS) somewhat but here Franco seems to think he's making something provocative and the movie is anything but. It's a bigger budget than Franco is used to working with and it shows, it's certainly in many ways a sumptuous looking film. But a good looking corpse is still a corpse. The only interesting part of the film is when Justine is working as a maid for a decadent aristocratic couple (Sylva Koscina, Horst Franck). The dreadful score is by Bruno Nicolai. With Jack Palance (who's just awful), Mercedes McCambridge, Akim Tamiroff, Rosemary Dexter, Rosalba Neri, Harald Leipnitz and Klaus Kinski as the Marquis De Sade.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Clara's Heart (1988)

Devastated at the loss of her baby daughter, a woman (Kathleen Quinlan) goes to Jamaica to grieve. It is there she meets a Jamaican woman (Whoopi Goldberg) working as a maid in the hotel and it's the maid who helps her deal with her grief. Grateful, she brings the woman back to the States to work as a housekeeper, much to the resentment of her young son (Neil Patrick Harris). Based on the novel by Joseph Olshan and directed by Robert Mulligan (TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD). The film received negative reviews on its original release but I liked it then and time has only been kind to the film. Its flaws are still there and the film veers to pop psychology and sentiment too often rather than digging deeper into the neuroses of the dysfunctional household. But there's one thing one can't complain about and that's Whoopi Goldberg's potent performance which is strong enough to overcome the movie's unevenness. There's a lovely underscore by David Grusin. With Michael Ontkean, Spalding Gray, Hattie Winston and Beverly Todd.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Nocturne (1946)

When a composer (Edward Ashley) and ladies man is found dead with a bullet to the head, it's deemed a suicide. But a police detective (George Raft) isn't convinced and pursues other avenues to find a murderer. Directed by Edwin L. Marin (TALL IN THE SADDLE), this crime mystery with noir-ish trimmings is capsized by Raft's somnambulistic performance. His police detective is a bit of an arrogant bully. A Bogart or a Mitchum could have gotten away with it but Raft doesn't have their charisma or style. It's a pity because with stronger direction and a more appealing lead actor, this could have made for a superior film noir. As it is, it's a tolerable entry. Some of the acting is pretty good. Notably, Lynn Bari as the chief suspect in the murder, Myrna Dell as a hard boiled ex-con working as a maid, Mabel Paige as Raft's mother and Joseph Pevney (who would switch to directing movies like MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES) as a piano player. The film was a modest hit. With Virginia Huston, Walter Sande, Queenie Smith, Dorothy Adams and Robert Anderson.   

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Notorious Landlady (1962)

When an American diplomat (Jack Lemmon) arrives in London, he rents a flat from a beautiful woman (Kim Novak) unaware that she's under suspicion by Scotland Yard for murdering her husband (Maxwell Reed). Based on the short story THE NOTORIOUS TENANT by Margery Sharp and directed by Richard Quine (BELL BOOK AND CANDLE). This mixture of romantic comedy and murder mystery is a pleasant diversion in no small part to the presence and chemistry of Lemmon and Novak in their third film together. The screenplay by Larry Gelbart (TOOTSIE) and Blake Edwards (PINK PANTHER) is amusing and the mystery elements are clever. It's a soundstage London (exteriors shot on the Warner Brothers lot) and the scenes on the English coastline look suspiciously like Carmel, California. The score is by George Duning (PICNIC) who makes witty use of Gilbert and Sullivan in the film's big chase scene. With Fred Astaire, Estelle Winwood, Lionel Jeffries, Henry Daniell and Philippa Bevans.

Sherlock Holmes And The Voice Of Terror (1942)

Set during WWII, the renowned detective Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) is called in by British Intelligence to help them discover the identity of the "Voice Of Terror", a Nazi propagandist taunting the British through radio broadcasts regarding acts of sabotage. Loosely based on THE LAST BOW by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and directed by John Rawlins (ARABIAN NIGHTS). The third film in the 14 Sherlock Holmes movie franchise (1939-1946) changes direction by setting itself in contemporary England rather than the late 19th/early 20th century of the original Conan Doyle books. The London fog, gas lit lamps and Holmes' deerstalker cap are sorely missed. That aside, this mixture of WWII propaganda and detective mystery is modestly entertaining but lacking any real engagement. With Evelyn Ankers, Reginald Denny, Thomas Gomez, Henry Daniell and Hillary Brooke.  

Saturday, January 9, 2021

First Cow (2020)

Set in 1820 Oregon, a cook (John Magaro) traveling with a group of fur trappers discovers a Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee) on the run for killing a Russian. Eventually, they bond and move in together as the cook makes biscuits and cookies and sells them. He gets the milk for his baking by secretly milking the only cow in the settlement. Based on the novel THE HALF LIFE by Jonathan Raymond and directed by Kelly Reichardt (WENDY AND LUCY). This is a simple minimalist film about loneliness, friendship, dreams and greed. Patience is a virtue while watching the movie because it moves at the pace of a tortoise. But if you can deal with that, you'll be rewarded with a lovely elegiac piece of cinema. It's light on plot but it's the kind of film poetry that resonates long after its over. The acting is good and sometimes more than that. John Magaro's performance may be my favorite performance by an actor in 2020. It's the kind of natural, subtle performance where you're not even aware of the acting, it just is. With Toby Jones, Rene Auberjonois and Scott Shepherd.

I Lunghi Capelli Della Morte (aka The Long Hair Of Death) (1964)

Set in the 15th century, a woman (Halina Zalewska) is burned at the stake for being a witch. But before she dies, she places a curse on the Count (Giuliano Raffaelli) who accused her of witchcraft and all his descendants. Directed by Antonio Margheriti, this is a routine Gothic horror film. The film could have used some tighter editing and a less predictable script. The cast is good, notably Barbara Steele as the woman's murdered daughter who comes back from the dead for revenge and George Ardisson as the venal aristocrat who marries the accused woman's younger daughter (Halina Zalewska). Margheriti (who disliked the movie) manages to conjure up a dark and eerie atmosphere but it's not enough to overcome the screenplay's ennui. Curiously, although I watched the film in Italian with English subtitles, the credits were in English with the Italian crew given anglicized names: Margheriti is billed as Anthony Dawson, the composer Carlo Rustichelli is billed as Evirust, the cinematographer Riccardo Pallottini as Richard Thierry and so on. With Laura Nucci (billed as Laureen Nuyen) and Umberto Raho (billed as Robert Rains).

Friday, January 8, 2021

Rage (1966)

An alcoholic doctor (Glenn Ford) lives in a small isolated Mexican desert town. He doesn't think much of it when his dog bites him until several days later when the dog is discovered to be rabid. With time running out, he must get to a hospital and get vaccinated with serum before the venom reaches his brain. Directed by Gilberto Gazcon, this thriller doesn't kick in until the second half of the movie. Too much of the film is wasted with a subplot about a pregnant Mexican woman (Dacia Gonzalez) in danger of losing her baby that kills the film's suspense. Once that is out of the way, the film is a fairly gripping rush against time thriller. Despite Ford and Stella Stevens (excellent as a camp prostitute) in the lead roles and the only non-Mexicans in the movie, this is really a Mexican film. Filmed there with Mexican actors and crew. The film could have used a stronger underscore than the mediocre and ineffective one by Gustavo Cesar Carrion. With David Reynoso and Armando Silvestre.

Le Marginal (1983)

A rogue French narcotics cop (Jean Paul Belmondo) in Marseille is reassigned to another district in retaliation for his unorthodox methods. But he still is determined to destroy the head (Henry Silva) of a drug cartel. Directed by Jacques Deray (THE SWIMMING POOL), this crime drama is fairly well done. There's nothing particularly impressive about it but Belmondo gives a cool performance reminiscent of Steve McQueen (there's even a BULLITT like car chase) but still pure Jean Paul Belmondo. Impressively, he even does most of his own stunts. Deray gives the film a bit of style and there's always a lot of action going on. The cinematography of Xaver Schwarzenberger (BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ) is splendid and there's yet another imposing Ennio Morricone underscore. With Tcheky Karyo. Pierre Vernier, Claude Brosset and Carlos Sotto Mayor, who despite the name is female.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Thousands Cheer (1943)

The daughter (Kathryn Grayson) of an Army Colonel (John Boles) falls in love with an enlisted man (Gene Kelly). This causes a problem with her mother (Mary Astor), who is divorced from her father because the Army took precedence over their marriage. Based on the story PRIVATE MISS JONES by Paul Jarrico and directed by George Sidney (BYE BYE BIRDIE). This slight wartime romantic comedy has the thinnest of plot lines. It's essentially a wartime morale booster similar to films like HOLLYWOOD CANTEEN and THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS where the film is padded out with a gallery of the studio's contract players (in this case, MGM). The film's trite storyline can be overlooked when you get Judy Garland singing boogie woogie, Eleanor Powell twirling and tapping and Lena Horne singing Honeysuckle Rose! The film's musical numbers and comedy sketches performed during a show for soldiers are the reason for sitting through this movie. Among the many performers: Mickey Rooney, Lucille Ball, Ann Sothern, Red Skelton, June Allyson, Donna Reed, Margaret O'Brien, Kay Kyser, Marsha Hunt, Marilyn Maxwell, Gloria DeHaven, Virginia O'Brien, Frank Morgan, Benny Carter, Sara Haden, Frances Rafferty, Bob Crosby and Ben Blue. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Reversal Of Fortune (1990)

A European aristocrat Claus von Bulow (Jeremy Irons in an Oscar winning performance) is married to a wealthy American (Glenn Close). When she falls into a permanent coma following a diabetic shock, he is charged with attempted murder by giving her insulin. Based on the non fiction book by Alan Dershowitz (played in the film by Ron Silver) and directed by Barbet Schroeder (BARFLY). Did he or didn't he? Although he was eventually acquitted of the murder charges, the von Bulow case remains one of the most ambiguous (attempted) murder trials of the 20th century. It's right up there with Lizzie Borden and O.J. Simpson. The film is cleverly constructed by having it narrated by a comatose Sunny von Bulow in her hospital bed. Irons' masterly performance is equally ambiguous, never letting his cool and calm demeanor down to see what lies beneath. Since its based on Dershowitz' book, he's played as a underdog hero and if it's self serving, that's to be expected. I quite like Mark Isham's subtle underscore. With Felicity Huffman, Uta Hagen, Julie Hagerty, Annabella Sciorra, Christine Baranski, Fisher Stevens and Jack Gilpin.

Monday, January 4, 2021

One Shoe Makes It Murder (1982)

A down on his luck ex-cop (Robert Mitchum) is hired by a casino owner (Mel Ferrer) in Lake Tahoe to find his missing wife (Cathie Shirriff). He locates her in San Francisco but just minutes after visiting her, she commits suicide by jumping out the window of a high rise. But was it suicide ..... or murder? Based on the novel SO LITTLE CAUSE FOR CAROLINE by Eric Bercovici and directed by William Hale (S.O.S. TITANIC). This modest noir-ish (there's even a voice over by Mitchum) murder mystery is decent enough although Mitchum has done the weary detective bit for so long that he's merely coasting here. Both he and Angie Dickinson (as an ex-call girl) seem a bit mature for the roles they're playing however. Still, both are true Stars so they hold the screen but the tired material lets them down. The plot seems overly complicated and near the end when Mitchum explains everything, I'm still not sure who did what to who! There's a strong score by Bruce Broughton. With Howard Hesseman, Jose Perez and John Harkins.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Riddle Of The Sands (1979)

A British yachtsman (Simon MacCorkindale) is sailing off the Northern coast of Germany in 1901. He suspects he has stumbled across a covert plot by the Imperial German navy to attack England's unprotected North Sea coast. He invites a friend (Michael York) in the British Foreign Office to visit him, ostensibly for duck hunting but in reality to assist him in uncovering the plot. Based on the 1903 novel by Erskine Childers and directed by Tony Maylam. The movie is basically faithful to the novel although the ending has been tampered with to make it more upbeat. The end result is a pleasant old fashioned adventure movie, no sex and very little violence but easily able to hold your interest. I'd almost call it quaint. The wide screen Panavision cinematography by Christopher Challis (CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG) makes handsome use of the Netherlands and German locations. The film was produced by Challis' son, Drummond. With Jenny Agutter providing the romantic interest, Alan Badel and Michael Sheard.      

The Letter (1929)

When her lover (Herbert Marshall) tires of her and takes a Chinese woman (Hoang Thi) as his mistress, a married woman (Jeanne Eagels) shoots him to death. However, she lies to the authorities and claims he attempted to rape her and it was self defense. Based on the play by W. Somerset Maugham (OF HUMAN BONDAGE) and directed by Jean De Limur. The film is nowhere near as good as the 1940 William Wyler version. It doesn't have the layers and ambiguous complexities. Still, as an early pre-code sound film, it isn't compromised in the way the Wyler film was. The Chinese woman is clearly his live in mistress here while in the 1940 version, she's his wife. Eagels' adulterous wife isn't "punished" the way Bette Davis's wife was in the Wyler film. As an early talkie, it's still slightly stilted in its execution. The reason to see the film is Jeanne Eagels' powerful performance. In her last big scene, she pulls all the stops out and punches you in the face. It's very different than Davis's acclaimed performance but in its own way, just as potent. Alas, Eagels died just months after the film was released at age 39 from a drug overdose. She was the first person to receive a posthumous Oscar nomination. Marshall, who plays her lover here, would go on to play the husband in the 1940 film. With O.P. Heggie and Reginald Owen.  

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Ride The Wild Surf (1964)

Three surfers (Fabian, Tab Hunter, Peter Brown) from Southern California spend their Christmas vacations in Hawaii in order to compete with surfers from all over the world and ride the biggest waves. Directed by Don Taylor (TOM SAWYER), this isn't your typical beach party movie. It takes surfing as a sport seriously and the film dispenses with comedic hijinks for the most part, there aren't any songs (unless you count the end credit song by Jan and Dean) and concentrates on the sport of surfing (those waves aren't for sissies). While I can appreciate the effort, it's still not a very good movie. The dialogue is cliched and trite, the acting isn't very good but at least Oscar winning cinematographer Joseph F. Biroc (TOWERING INFERNO) does an exceptional job of capturing those waves. Phil Karlson (GUNMAN'S WALK) was brought in to direct for a few days when directory Taylor fell ill. With Barbara Eden, Shelley Fabares, Susan Hart, Catherine McLeod and James Mitchum.  

Without Love (1945)

A military research scientist (Spencer Tracy) and a widow (Katharine Hepburn) have no interest in romantic relationships but for different reasons. He got burned in love and wants nothing more to do with it and she had a beautiful loving marriage and doesn't want to impinge on that memory. So they decide to get married without love but for companionship. Based on the play by Philip Barry (THE PHILADELPHIA STORY) with Hepburn repeating her stage role and directed by Harold S. Bucquet (DRAGON SEED). Rarely mentioned when discussing the Tracy and Hepburn movies and for good reason. It starts off promisingly but the film paints itself into a corner. After they get married, there's no place for the movie to go except the obvious. Still, it's far better than SEA OF GRASS and at least as good as KEEPER OF THE FLAME. Surprisingly for one of the weaker Tracy/Hepburn vehicles, the reviews were fairly good and the picture was a hit at the box office. But it's dullish and unmemorable. Some of the supporting players, notably Lucille Ball and Keenan Wynn add some juice to the proceedings. With Patricia Morison, Felix Bressart and Carl Esmond.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)

Having survived polio as a child (Donna Corcoran), an Australian swimmer (Esther Williams, who doesn't bother with the Aussie accent) relocates to London and later New York in her rise to fame. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy (QUO VADIS), this highly fictionalized movie biography of Annette Kellerman is one of Esther Williams' better vehicles. The storyline is a smidge more than the usual fluff she did and the aquatic production numbers are truly spectacular, thanks to Busby Berkeley's audacious eye. MGM imported Victor Mature from 20th Century Fox so she has a stronger leading man than usual although their pairing never quite catches fire. George Foley's vivid three strip Technicolor lensing got an Oscar nomination. If you've never seen an Esther Williams movie, this is a good a place as any to start. With Walter Pidgeon, David Brian, Jesse White, Frank Ferguson and Maria Tallchief as Anna Pavlova.

The Godfather Coda: The Death Of Michael Corleone (aka The Godfather Part III) (1990)

The patriarch (Al Pacino) of a major crime "family" is determined to go legitimate and divests the family of its criminal and illegitimate businesses. But his ambitions to go straight are hindered by the other mob families who either hold deadly grudges or want a part of the "legit" action. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, this is a restructured edit of THE GODFATHER PART III. It's still the weakest of the GODFATHER trilogy but that's hardly a putdown. The first two are among the greatest American films and just about any film would suffer in comparison. I liked the original GODFATHER III a lot and I had no problems with Sofia Coppola's performance which was roundly panned. There's no difference between the two films as far as the narrative goes and it still feels less epic than the first two movies. It's a bit tighter (though still running over the 2 1/2 hour mark) and there's more clarity to the complicated plot. But it remains a more than decent end to the GODFATHER saga. The only thing that irritated me was the creepy incestuous romance between Sofia Coppola and Andy Garcia (their fathers are brothers!) that the film seems to approve of. The massive cast includes Diane Keaton, Eli Wallach, Talia Shire, Raf Vallone, George Hamilton, Bridget Fonda, Joe Mantegna, Helmut Berger, John Savage, Donal Donnelly, Brett Halsey and Al Martino.