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Monday, May 31, 2021

Kinky Boots (2019)

Having inherited a sinking shoe factory from his father (Graham Kent), his son (Killian Donnelly) teams up with a cabaret drag performer (Matt Henry) to produce a line of high heeled stiletto boots and save the factory. Based on the 2005 film and directed by Jerry Mitchell (who also did the choreography) and Brett Sullivan. An infectiously joyous musical that's positively irresistible. Vivid and brightly colorful, the production shows off Cyndi Lauper's Tony award winning melodic score, Mitchell's sensational choreography and a killer performance by Matt Henry as Lola. The musical highpoints are The Sex Is In The Heel, an exciting dance number that stops the show and a thrilling finale Raise You Up/Just Be that makes you want to ..... well, stand up and cheer. No, it's not Rodgers & Hammerstein and it won't be remembered as one of the landmark musicals of the Broadway theatre but it's a hell of a good time. With Natalie McQueen, Sean Needham and Cordelia Farnworth.

Born To Kill (1947)

A recent divorcee (Claire Trevor) finds herself attracted to a rugged loner (Lawrence Tierney) that she meets in Reno. That attraction doesn't stop even after he marries her rich sister (Audrey Long) and she finds out he's a psychopath. Based on the novel DEADLIER THAN THE MALE by James Gunn and directed by Robert Wise (WEST SIDE STORY). This is a perfect slice of film noir incorporating the usual elements of the genre. The film's femme fatale finds herself both fascinated and repelled by the loose cannon that Tierney is. Her big mistake however is thinking she can somehow control him and that underestimation will be her downfall. The film received mostly negative reviews when it originally opened but subsequent reevaluation in the ensuing years has placed it among the best noirs of its decade. The film is stolen by Esther Howard, who gives a sensational performance as a drunken landlady, the only character in the film I had sympathy for. A must for fans of the genre. With Walter Slezak, Elisha Cook Jr., Martha Hyer, Isabell Jewel, Ellen Corby and Kathryn Card.   

Sunday, May 30, 2021

The Alamo (1960)

In 1836, Sam Houston (Richard Boone) leads the forces of Texas against the Mexican forces lead by General Santa Anna (Ruben Padilla). But he needs time and he depends on Colonel Travis (Laurence Harvey) to defend a former mission called The Alamo where a group of Texicans are set to take a stand. They are soon joined by Davy Crockett (John Wayne) and his men and Jim Bowie (Richard Widmark) and his volunteers. Produced and directed by John Wayne, this is a true epic albeit mostly fictional. The film originally clocked in at three hours and 23 minutes but was cut down to two hours and 47 minutes. The film could use some judicious editing shears. I haven't heard such long winded speechifying in one movie in all my life. It seems every 20 minutes or so, some character pontificates on freedom, God, life, death etc. Alas, those remain in the film. Unfortunately, what was often cut is character development and the restored scenes add clarification. Not surprisingly in such a testosterone laced film, it's the female characters (Linda Cristal, Joan O'Brien) whose roles are diminished. Some of the acting is good (Widmark) but lots of it is bad (notably, Frankie Avalon and Chill Wills). I watched the original uncut Roadshow version (includes overture, intermission, entr'acte, exit music) and it's easy to spot the deleted scenes because they lack the clarity and color of the rest of the movie. The film sports some of the best sound (the directional stereo is excellent) I've heard in a film and justifiably won the Oscar for best sound. The bombastic score is by Dimitri Tiomkin. The huge cast includes Joseph Calleia, Ken Curtis, Veda Ann Borg, Olive Carey and Wesley Lau.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Last Of The Mohicans (1936)

Set during the French and Indian war (1754-1763), two Englishwomen (Binnie Barnes, Heather Angel) are on their way to join their father (Hugh Buckler), who is the commander of a British fort. But they are betrayed by their Huron guide (Bruce Cabot) and rescued by a Colonial scout (Randolph Scott). Based on the novel by James Fenimore Cooper and directed by George B. Seitz (LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY). There are many changes from Cooper's source material: a major character (the singing teacher) is eliminated entirely, an interracial romance between the Colonel's daughter (Angel) and the Mohican warrior (Phillip Reed) is added, a character killed by the Hurons in the novel instead commits suicide in the movie, etc. That being said, it's a first rate western (although it takes place in the East) adventure with Scott giving his best performance until the Boetticher westerns he did in the 1950s. The film's screenwriter Philip Dunne hated the film because it changed his screenplay which had been more authentic to the time period but when Michael Mann made the 1992 version, he ignored Cooper's book and remade the 1936 film! With Henry Wilcoxon and Robert Barrat.

Friday, May 28, 2021

The Witches (2020)

Set in 1968, a young orphan (Jahzir Kadeem Bruno) is sent to live with his grandmother (Octavia Spencer) after his parents are killed in an auto crash. When they go to a luxury seaside hotel, the boy discovers that a convention of witches is at the hotel and they have plans to turn the world's children into mice. Based on the novel by Roald Dahl and directed by Robert Zemeckis (ROMANCING THE STONE), who also produced along with Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo Del Toro. As a director, Zemeckis is a mixed bag but fortunately he's in DEATH BECOMES HER mode here rather than FORREST GUMP. Dahl's novel was previously made in 1990 by Nicholas Roeg and this version was savaged by the critics for being inferior to the Roeg movie. Frankly, I quite enjoyed it. The film is more disturbing for children than the family friendly 1990 film. For example, the entire witch convention sequence is way too scary for the young ones but for adults, it's quite amusing. Anne Hathaway as the Grand High Witch seems to be having a ball and it's infectious. Unlike the Roeg film, the movie is CGI heavy and while the special effects are often impressive, it's perhaps overused. Even Hathaway's black cat is a CGI concoction. With Chris Rock, Stanley Tucci, Kristen Chenoweth and Morgana Robinson.

Them! (1954)

A little girl (Sandy Descher) is found wandering in shock in the New Mexico desert by two cops (James Whitmore, Christian Drake). When mysterious prints are found in the area, a father (Edmund Gwenn) and daughter (Joan Weldon) team of scientists are flown in by the FBI. Directed by Gordon Douglas (TONY ROME), this is the best of the science fiction giant insect movies that proliferated in the 1950s. It's got decent production values, a relatively intelligent script (considering the subject matter) and Oscar nominated special effects. Originally intended to be filmed in 3D and color, the muted B&W lensing of Sidney Hickox (WHITE HEAT) renders the film more effective I think. The giant ants would only look less believable in Technicolor. With Fess Parker, James Arness, John Beradino, Ann Doran and Dub Taylor.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

The Journey Of Natty Gann (1985)

Set in 1935 Chicago during the great depression, the only work a widower (Ray Wise) is able to get is in Washington state. He leaves his young daughter (Meredith Salenger) in the care of the rooming house's owner (Lainie Kazan) with the intention of sending for her when he can. But fearing the rooming house owner will have her sent to an orphanage as an abandoned child, the daughter runs away intent on traveling cross country on her own to get to her father. Directed by Jeremy Kagan (THE BIG FIX), this is a Walt Disney film but there are strong adult elements unusual for a film with the Disney imprimatur on it. There's child abuse, animal abuse and even a pedophile shows up. The film is very good at imparting life during the Great Depression. There's rich detail in the cinematography of Dick Bush (VICTOR VICTORIA), the production design of Paul Sylbert (HEAVEN CAN WAIT) and the Oscar nominated costumes of Albert Wolsky (GREASE). This being a Disney film, it tends to lean toward sentimentality and there are several teary eye moments but it never becomes mawkish. Salenger gives a gritty performance and there's a scene stealing performance by Jed as a wolf (the four legged kind). With John Cusack, Scatman Crothers, Verna Bloom and Barry Miller.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Vanina Vanini (1961)

Set during the Italian Risorgimento in 1824, the daughter (Sandra Milo) of a Roman aristocrat falls in love with a revolutionary (Laurent Terzieff) working to overthrow the oppressive government and the very class system she is a part of. Inevitably, they must come to terms with their differences. For her, their love takes precedence over everything else. For him, his commitment to liberate Italy is foremost. Based on the short story by Stendhal and directed by Roberto Rossellini. There's a potentially great film in here but we'll never know. It's yet another case of a movie being torn apart by a producer destroying the director's vision in order to make it more "commercial". I found the film's editing choppy and it felt like the film had been cut and sure enough, it was. Reputedly, Rossellini's cut was destroyed in a fire in 1980. While the political tract is still there, Rossellini added a heavy dose of Catholicism which isn't in Stendhal's story and he changes the story's ending. What we we're left with is a sumptuous period romance along the lines of Visconti's SENSO but weakened by all the tinkering. With Martine Carol (whose role is a victim of the cuts, it's practically a cameo), Paolo Stoppa and Isabelle Corey.

The Doctor's Dilemma (1958)

Set in 1906 London. Fearing that her nonconformist artist husband (Dirk Bogarde) is terminally ill, his wife (Leslie Caron) goes to one of Harley Street's top specialists (John Robinson) and pleads for him to save her husband. The doctor's case load is full and so the question is ..... is the artist's life worth saving? Based on the play by George Bernard Shaw and directed by Anthony Asquith (PYGMALION). One of Shaw's lesser known plays is given the deluxe treatment with color cinematography by Robert Krasker (THE THIRD MAN), art direction by Paul Sheriff (MOULIN ROUGE) and costumes by Cecil Beaton (MY FAIR LADY). Shaw's pointed barbs at the medical profession are intact and we're appalled by the coldness in which patients are judged by their worthiness (so much for equality) while they live handsomely on the expensive fees they charge their patients. But we can't feel too much sympathy for Bogarde's patient either. He's amoral, thinks nothing of hustling people for money with no intention to pay them back and even petty stealing! Which leaves us Caron's wife, who is so infatuated with her husband that she ignores his indiscretions. To the film's credit, it doesn't exchange Shaw's cruel ending for a happy one. I liked it but I can't honestly say I enjoyed it. The film never explains how Caron as the wife of a starving artist can afford all those gorgeous Cecil Beaton frocks! With Robert Morley, Felix Aylmer, Alastair Sim and Alec McCowen.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Birds II: Land's End (1994)

After the death of their son, a biology teacher (Brad Johnson) and his wife (Chelsea Field) find their marriage on shaky ground. They rent a house on an island for the summer in an attempt to bring things back to normalcy. Based on the book by Daphne Du Maurier and directed by Rick Rosenthal (BAD BOYS) although the direction is credited to the pseudonym Alan Smithee. This is not as much a sequel to the classic 1963 Hitchcock movie as another version of the Du Maurier story. The film doesn't seem to understand what made/makes the Hitchcock film the classic that it is. It was more than just a "horror" film and this version has no subtext at all. The film's central story of a marriage in trouble is thin and it doesn't help to have two such uninteresting actors like Johnson and Field in the leads. The first bird attack in the children's bedroom is startling and well done but that's it. Everything else is a rehash of Hitchcock's film. With Tippi Hedren (always welcome) in a completely different role from the one she had in the Hitchcock movie, James Naughton and Jan Rubes. 

Monday, May 24, 2021

Ercole Alla Conquista Di Atlantide (aka Hercules And The Captive Women) (1961)

When he refuses to accompany the King of Thebes (Ettore Manni) on a voyage, the King has Hercules (Reg Park) drugged and kidnapped and placed on the ship. When the ship capsizes, Hercules rescues a young girl (Laura Efrikian) from a monster and she takes him to her home ..... the fabled island of Atlantis. Directed by Vittorio Cattafavi, the film is a favorite of peplum fans but I found it a middling entry in the sword and sandal genre. The special effects are weak but that only contributes to the film's overall cheesiness. That being said, Reg Park is probably the best Hercules post Steve Reeves. The principal god of Atlantis is Uranus which makes for some unfortunate and unintentional laughs ("The blood of Uranus will flow", "The power of Uranus is strong" etc.). The film looks good thanks to Carlo Carlini's wide screen cinematography. It was released in 70 millimeter Technirama, impressive for such a low budget movie. With Fay Spain as the Queen Of Atlantis, Salvatore Furnari and Luciano Marin.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Amore Mio Aiutami (aka Help Me My Love) (1969)

When his wife (Monica Vitti) confesses her attraction to another man (Silvano Tranquilli), her husband (Alberto Sordi) becomes jealous and spies on her and even uses their 10 year old son (Maurzio Davini) in an attempt to stave off the affair from being consummated. Directed by Alberto Sordi, this is a bizarre and unsettling comedy that was a big box office hit in Italy (Sordi and Vitti were Italy's top box office stars) but it never received a U.S. release and it's easy to see why. It's overlong for a comedy (it runs over two hours) but the film switches gears in the middle of the movie. The first half seems to be a typical Italian comedy about infidelity but halfway through the film, Sordi gives Vitti a brutal beating, a beating so bad that she loses her hearing in one ear and has to be taken to the hospital. Remember this is a comedy! The film's tone gets consistently darker after that and heads to a downbeat conclusion. The film never quite recovers from that shocking brutal beating and one loses sympathy for both Sordi and Vitti. That being said, I was hooked just to find out where the movie was going and where it would end up. With Laura Adani and Ugo Gregoretti.

The Goose And The Gander (1935)

When a divorcee (Kay Francis) overhears her ex-husband's (Ralph Forbes) new wife (Genevieve Tobin) planning a romantic getaway with her new lover (George Brent), she concocts an elaborate plot to get her revenge on the woman for stealing her husband. Directed by Alfred E. Green (THE JOLSON STORY), everything is in place for a delightful screwball farce with mistaken identities, jewel thieves and all the participants trapped in a mountain lodge. The material is there but it never lives up to the possibilities for a couple of reasons. The script is decent but the direction is lackluster but most importantly, none of the cast are farceurs. Kay Francis and George Brent are hardly known for their comedic abilities and one can only dream of what might have been with Jean Arthur and Cary Grant in their roles and Howard Hawks in the director chair. Still, it is what it is and I enjoyed it well enough. With John Eldredge, Claire Dodd and Helen Lowell. 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Hopscotch (1980)

After he quits his position at the CIA, a former agent (Walter Matthau) plans to publish a memoir revealing all the dirty doings behind the scenes. His superior (Ned Beatty) will stop at nothing to prevent the book from being published, even if he has to have the former agent killed. Based on the novel by Brian Garfield (DEATH WISH) and directed by Ronald Neame (THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE). This amiable spy comedy is modest in its aims and it isn't difficult to watch but it's a rather thin venture done without much style or wit. The novel's darker tones were lightened for the film to play to Matthau's comedic strengths including a slight change in the ending. The film was critically lauded when it opened and it has a cult following of sorts but unless you saw the movie when it was first released, I doubt you'd be impressed. Glenda Jackson seems overqualified for fluff like this and she isn't given much to do. I assume she accepted the role because it provided an opportunity to reunite with Matthau, who she loved working with in HOUSE CALLS. With Sam Waterston, Herbert Lom, George Baker, Severn Darden, Allan Cuthbertson, Anne Haney and Lucy Saroyan.

Walk Softly Stranger (1950)

A mysterious stranger (Joseph Cotten) arrives in a small Ohio town and slowly starts building a life for himself. He begins to court the town's richest woman (Alida Valli) who is in a wheelchair after a skiing accident in Switzerland. But it's only a matter of time before his past catches up with him. Directed by Robert Stevenson (MARY POPPINS), this mixture of romance and film noir is good enough to hold your attention through its running time but it's not particularly memorable. Routine about sums it up. Although it reunites two of the main players of THE THIRD MAN, the material isn't strong enough to catch fire a second time. Actually, it was filmed before THE THIRD MAN but sat on the shelf for two years. Cotten is fine giving a nice ambiguous performance, you're never sure if his feelings for Alida Valli are sincere or is he after her money. But Valli manages to give a rather touching performance, its soapy ending notwithstanding. With Spring Byington, Paul Stewart, Jack Paar, John McIntire, Jeff Donnell and Esther Dale. 

Friday, May 21, 2021

La Habanera (1937)

In 1927, a young Swedish woman (Zarah Leander) and her Aunt (Julia Serda) visit Puerto Rico. While her Aunt takes an intense dislike to the island, the girl sees it as a paradise and falls in love with a dashing and wealthy landowner (Ferdinand Marian) and stays behind to marry him. But as the years pass, she becomes disillusioned with both the island and her husband. Directed by Douglas Sirk, this was his last German film prior to fleeing the country (his wife was Jewish) and eventually relocating to the U.S. The movie is a melodrama, in line with the genre that would make Sirk one of Universal's most popular directors in the 1950s and later elevated to auteur status by the French. Its exotic portrait of Puerto Rico (it was filmed in the Canary Islands) is a fantasy rather than a reflection of the real Puerto Rico but that's irrelevant overall. The film is slightly schizophrenic as it seems to impart mixed messages. On one hand, it seems to say European (or Caucasian if you prefer) people don't fit it with these "natives" who are primitive compared to European culture. On the other hand, the tyrant who oversees the island is reminiscent of what was going on in Germany at the time and the government downplaying a deadly virus that kills its populace because it will interfere with the island's economy is eerily prescient. With Karl Martell and Boris Alekin. 

Blithe Spirit (2021)

Doing research for a screenplay he's writing, a novelist (Dan Stevens) invites  a medium (Judi Dench) to his home to hold a seance. However, the medium inadvertently conjures up the spirit of the writer's deceased first wife (Leslie Mann) which doesn't please his current wife (Isla Fisher) at all. Based on the play by Noel Coward and directed by Edward Hall (son of director Peter Hall). Coward's jewel of a drawing room comedy would seem to be foolproof, that is if you don't fiddle with it. Unfortunately, this adaptation fiddles with it to the point that only a skeleton of the play is left. The screenplay opens up the play (which takes place entirely in one room) so that we're all over the place: on a lake, at a film studio, at a theatre, at a garden party, at a bar etc. and several subsidiary characters are added that weren't in the play. The character of Madame Arcati (Judi Dench) is enlarged from the play giving her more to do and making her less dotty (and less amusing) than Coward's play. The spark just isn't there and only Leslie Mann, who manages a sassy impudence (but not of the Coward type) provides some decent line readings. The plot tosses in some real people like Greta Garbo (Stella Stocker), Cecil B. DeMille (Colin Stinton) and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Georgina Rich). With Emilia Fox and Michele Dotrice.  

Thursday, May 20, 2021

The Lost Patrol (1934)

Set during WWI, after the death of the Lieutenant leading the patrol in the Mesopotamian desert, the Sergeant (Victor McLaglen) takes command. The only problem is that the deceased Lieutenant was the only one who knew what their mission is and where they were. Lost in the desert, the patrol finds an oasis to shelter them but they are surrounded by Arabs intent on wiping them out. Based on the novel PATROL (previously filmed in 1923) by Philip MacDonald and directed by John Ford. This pre-code film is the prototype of all those war movies and westerns where the main characters are trapped and surrounded by nemesis on all sides and struggle to survive with the odds against them. Shot in stark B&W by Harold Wenstrom (MIN AND BILL) in the deserts and dunes of Arizona and California (Algodones), Ford creates a taut and strained atmosphere that enhances the tension. Never seen until the very end, the Arabs are a ghostly presence through most of the film. The acting is decent except for Boris Karloff, who goes a bit over the top as a religious fanatic. Max Steiner did the score. With Reginald Denny, Wallace Ford, Alan Hale and J.M. Kerrigan. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Summer Wishes Winter Dreams (1973)

An upper class Manhattan housewife (Joanne Woodward in an Oscar nominated performance) suffers from depression and seems alienated from her family. When her mother (Sylvia Sidney) suddenly dies, she begins to reflect on her past, her relationships and her own mortality. Directed by Gilbert Cates (I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER), this is a rather dreary film with a frigid (in more ways than one) protagonist. As good as she is, Woodward can't drum up much sympathy for her "snow queen" and spending 90 minutes with such an uncharitable woman makes it a bit of a slog to get through. As her opinionated mother, Sylvia Sidney (also Oscar nominated) livens up the movie but alas, they kill her off early in the film. As if to correspond to its heroine's bleak outlook on life, Gerald Hirschfeld shot the film in muted browns and grays. There's a sequence in the movie where Wooodward and Sidney go to a screening of Ingmar Bergman's WILD STRAWBERRIES, a film touching on similar themes which accomplishes everything this film doesn't. Johnny Mandel (THE SANDPIPER) did the subdued score. With Martin Balsam, Dori Brenner, Tresa Hughes and Ron Rickards.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Wyoming Renegades (1955)

After serving three years in prison, an outlaw (Philip Carey) with the "Hole In The Wall" gang lead by Butch Cassidy (Gene Evans) and the Sundance Kid (William Bishop) decides to go straight. He returns to his hometown and his girl (Martha Hyer) who has been waiting for him. But the town doesn't trust him and Butch and Sundance are plotting a robbery of the town bank. Directed by Fred F. Sears (EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS), this B western programmer has enough twists and turns to hold your attention right through to the end and its feminist finale. Although it incorporates real outlaws like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, it's total fiction. Its brief running time of one hour and 12 minutes doesn't allow it to wear out its welcome. Lester White (BABES ON BROADWAY) is responsible for the Technicolor cinematography utilizing the Lone Pine and Bronson Canyon (both in California) locations. With Douglas Kennedy, Roy Roberts and Aaron Spelling.

Pickup On South Street (1953)

A petty pickpocket (Richard Widmark) picks the purse of an unsuspecting tart (Jean Peters). What he doesn't realize is that he's just stolen a strip of microfilm bearing confidential government secrets that were on their way to communist agents. Suddenly, he finds himself in the middle of a gambit between the FBI and the reds and he plans to profit from it. Directed by Samuel Fuller, this is a terrific and tight film noir with a set of colorful protagonists, all part of the criminal underworld in some way or another. You can tell Fuller loves these characters and doesn't judge their morality (or lack of it). And what performances! Widmark gives a tough and unsentimental performance, you can't help but like him even if he is a weasel. Jean Peters and Thelma Ritter as a police informant have never been better. Ritter goes easy on the comic wisecracks and gets a chance to show her acting chops as a scrappy hustler living to pay for her funeral. For its day, the film is shockingly brutal. The movie features a kinetic score by Leigh Harline. With Richard Kiley (very good), Murvyn Vye, Willis Bouchey and Parley Baer.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Mr. Sardonicus (1961)

Set in 1880, a prominent British physician (Ronald Lewis) visits the estate of the mysterious Baron Sardonicus (Guy Rolfe) at the request of the Baron's wife (Audrey Dalton), a former love of the doctor. It seems the Baron is disfigured, his face in a perpetual frozen grin and he wants the doctor's help in restoring his face back to normal. Based on the short story SARDONICUS by Ray Russell, who adapted it for the screen and directed by horror schlockmeister William Castle (STRAIT JACKET) known for his gimmickry in hyping his films. The gimmick here is a "punishment poll" in which the audience decides the fate of the sadistic Baron. As to the movie itself, it's an engaging B horror with a lot of dubious psychobabble. The film owes much to Paul Leni's THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (also an influence on Batman's The Joker). With Oscar Homolka, Vladimir Sokoloff and Erika Peters.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Mrs. Pollifax Spy (1971)

Her children grown and gone, a middle aged widow (Rosalind Russell) volunteers to be a spy for the CIA because she feels she is "expendable". The CIA sends her on a simple courier job to Mexico to pick up a book in Mexico City. But that's easier said than done and she finds herself kidnapped and taken to communist Albania along with another CIA agent (Darren McGavin). Based on the novel THE UNEXPECTED MRS. POLLIFAX by Dorothy Gilman and adapted for the screen by Rosalind Russell under the pseudonym of C.A. McKnight and directed by Leslie H. Martinson (FATHOM). The MRS. POLLIFAX novels were a series of books (15 in all) but this was the only one made into a feature film (Angela Lansbury would later do it for TV). It starts off promisingly but once Mrs. Pollifax is kidnapped, it turns into a dreary anti-communist tract without much excitement. It's a family friendly spy movie so there's no sex or violence (on screen anyway). Watchable but forgettable. At least the film had the good sense to make the Russell and McGavin relationship platonic rather than romantic. The cinematography is by Joseph Biroc (AIRPLANE!) and the score is by Lalo Schifrin.With Nehemiah Persoff, John Beck, Dana Elcar and Harold Gould.

Bewitched (1945)

A young girl (Phyllis Thaxter) from a good family in a small town is engaged to a charming young man (Henry H. Daniels Jr.). But no one knows she is mentally ill. She has another darker personality living inside her and who is trying to take dominance over her body ... even if she has to kill to do it. Based on a radio play ALTER EGO by Arch Obler (FIVE), who also directed the film. A fascinating curio to have come out of 1940s MGM. It's a precursor to films like THREE FACES OF EVE and SYBIL. It shows how little the medical establishment and society knew about split personalities at that time. No reason is given for the dual personality but it suggests that sexual repression might have something to do with it. When she kisses a man (Stephen McNally), she is frightened of the passion she feels while her "other" loves it. Thaxter in a rare leading role is very good but I might have been more impressed if she provided the voice of the evil "other" which is done by Audrey Totter. There's a nice score by Bronislau Kaper which elevates the film. With Edmund Gwenn as the psychiatrist who first discovers the dual personality, Addison Richards and Kathleen Lockhart.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Da 5 Bloods (2020)

Four Vietnam vets (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr.) return to Vietnam with a twofold purpose. First, to locate the remains of their fallen squad leader (Chadwick Boseman) and second, to retrieve more than a million dollars worth of gold bars they buried there. Co-written (along with three other writers) and directed by Spike Lee. If I have any complaints about the film, it's the length (it runs over 2 1/2 hours). Lee is taking two different films and then coheres the two. One film is about the black experience in Vietnam and the second is an old fashioned action/adventure movie. It doesn't take long before you figure out where the movie is going. Not if you've seen TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE. One Vietnamese character even says, "We don't need to show you any stinking badges". APOCALYPSE NOW is also referenced. The ensemble cast is excellent with Lindo's batshit crazy, paranoid vet a standout. Lee gets some assistance from his cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel (THE USUAL SUSPECTS) whose lensing is first rate and uses several different aspect ratios (1.37, 1.85, 2.35) in the telling and also Terence Blanchard who delivers another awesome score. For the most part, I was riveted. With Jonathan Majors, Jean Reno, Melanie Thierry, Johnny Tri Nguyen and Le Y Lan.  

The Trojan Women (1971)

The city of Troy has fallen and the Greeks have sacked and pillaged it. Its men slaughtered, only the women are left to mourn. Based on the classic play by Euripides and directed by Michael Cacoyannis (ZORBA THE GREEK). Cacoyannis uses Edith Hamilton's translation of the Euripides play as the basis of the screenplay. It is, sadly, a timeless play. Thousands of years later and mankind still oppresses one another and war is not obsolete but active. But war is seen here by its defeated, not by military men but wives and mothers. One of the great plays of classical literature is given a vital presentation with terrific performances by four brilliant actresses. As Hecuba, Troy's Queen, Katharine Hepburn tones down her mannerisms and gives a stirring performance. No need to "act" like a Queen, she effortlessly carries herself like one. As Hecuba's daughter in law Andromache, Vanessa Redgrave knocks it out of the ballpark as the saying goes. Her pain as she realizes her son is going to be killed is breathtaking in its execution. As the mad prophetess Cassandra, Genevieve Bujold is ready to jump out of her skin yet retains a despairing poignance. Then there's Irene Papas as the calculating Helen of Troy, a fierce performance. You can believe that men would start a war over her. With Brian Blessed and Patrick Magee.

Sensation Seekers (1927)

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

Friday, May 14, 2021

Between Two Worlds (1944)

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

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Maverick (1994)

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

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

20 Million Miles To Earth (1957)

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

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Splash (1984)

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

Cast A Dark Shadow (1955)

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

Monday, May 10, 2021

La Cage Aux Folles (1979)

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

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Two Sisters From Boston (1946)

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

History Is Made At Night (1937)

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

Sherlock Holmes In Washington (1943)

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

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Judas And The Black Messiah (2021)

Set in 1968 Chicago, a petty thief (Lakeith Stanfield) is arrested but instead of being prosecuted, he's approached by an FBI agent (Jesse Plemons) to infiltrate the Black Panther party and act as an informant. Co-written and directed by Shaka King, this is a riveting film from start to finish chronicling a disturbing injustice and cold blooded assassination perpetuated by the FBI and Chicago police. Superbly acted by Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton whose Oscar nominations for supporting actor are inexplicable as they are both co-leads and should have (deservingly) been in the best actor category! Though the film has its share of flaws, Plemons is so obvious that he may as well have "Evil" tattooed on his forehead and the movie veers dangerously close to sentiment in some scenes, it's an intense film experience. The film is aided immeasurably by the mood setting cinematography of Sean Bobbitt (also Oscar nominated) and an excellent score by Mark Isham and Craig Harris. With Dominique Fishback, Martin Sheen, Ashton Sanders and Algee Smith. 

Der Kaiser Von Kalifornien (aka The Kaiser Of California) (1936)

A Swiss emigrant (Luis Trenker) leaves his wife (Viktoria Von Ballasko) and two sons to come to America with the intention of settling out West and building a home for them but his ambitions lead him to build an empire. Written and directed by Trenker, this is a fictionalized account of the life of Johann Sutter, perhaps most famous as the owner of Sutter's Mill which became the birthplace of the California Gold Rush of 1849. The movie is a curiosity in that it's a western filmed in the U.S. (Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Arizona) but it's a German film made during the Nazi era. It has a definite political bent as it eschews the lure of easy money (gold) over individual rights and hard work. Visually, the film has an eye for the western vistas and Trenker, who began his career working with Arnold Fanck (known for his "mountain" films) clearly learned from Fanck how to shoot landscapes. While accuracy is often adhered to, Trenker deviates from the facts frequently. For example, his children were not murdered which Trenker adds for dramatic effect. It's a decent western and fascinating to watch a foreigner's take on an American genre like the western, something we wouldn't see again until the spate of spaghetti westerns in the 1960s.

Friday, May 7, 2021

The Blue Lagoon (1980)

Set in the Victorian era, after an explosion destroys the ship they were sailing on, the ship's cook (Leo McKern) and two children (Glenn Kohan, Elva Josephson) adrift on a lifeboat eventually find a desert island. After the cook dies, the children (now morphed into Christopher Atkins and Brooke Shields) are left to fend for themselves. Based on the 1908 novel by Henry De Vere Stacpoole and directed by Randal Kleiser (GREASE). Stacpoole's book had previously been filmed in 1923 and 1949 with Jean Simmons in Shields role. Savaged by the critics when released, it was a big hit at the box office spawning a sequel. While it's clear that Kleiser is attempting a look at how two children are growing up naturally and without societal taboos and their innocence in worldly matters, there's still an uncomfortable salaciousness permeating the movie. Atkins was 17 and Shields was 14 and the copious amounts of sexuality and nudity border on exploitation though both had body doubles for many of the scenes. It would take a more artful director than Kleiser to eliminate the titillation aspect of it. But it's a desert island romantic fantasy, not a serious examination of the subject. On the plus side, there's the stunning Oscar nominated cinematography by the great Nestor Almendros (DAYS OF HEAVEN) and a beautiful underscore by Basil Poledouris (CONAN THE BARBARIAN). With William Daniels and Alan Hopgood.  

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Dakota Incident (1956)

A disparate group of passengers await a stagecoach that will take them to Laramie but they will have to cross hostile Cheyenne territory to get there. Among the passengers are an actress (Linda Darnell), a bank robber (Dale Robertson), a U.S. Senator (Ward Bond), a bank clerk (John Lund), a minstrel (Regis Toomey) and a gold trader (Whit Bissell). Directed by Lewis R. Foster (THE BOLD AND THE BRAVE), this B western from Republic studios may come across as a low rent STAGECOACH (1939) but it's a solid if minor effort. Western fans should find enough to hold their attention. At first the movie seems unenlightened in its attitude toward the Indian. The one character who speaks up for the Indian  (Ward Bond) is portrayed as a pompous fool with a lech for Darnell. But by the film's moralistic ending, there's a message of hope that it's possible for the white man and the Indian to live together in peace. With Skip Homeier, John Doucette and Malcolm Atterbury. 

The Delicious Little Devil (1919)

A young Irish lass (Mae Murray) is the sole support of her shiftless family. After being fired from her last job, she gets a job as a cabaret dancer by pretending to be a notorious European showgirl in hiding from her latest scandal. Directed by Robert Z. Leonard (ZIEGFELD GIRL), who was married to Murray at the time. I'm a big fan of silent cinema but this comedy didn't do much for me. Murray was one of the biggest stars of the silent era and I'd never seen any of her films so I was looking forward to this but I didn't find her particularly engaging. The film had intertitles which used dialects, Irish in particular, which I found annoying. The plot is thin and not especially amusing but it was nice seeing Rudolph Valentino long before he became a star and without the exoticism which later became attached to him. The Mickey Mouse underscoring by Nora Knoll Rosenbaum didn't do the movie any favors. With Richard Cummings, Edward Jobson, Harry Rattenbury and William V. Mong.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Astronaut's Wife (1999)

While in space, two NASA astronauts (Johnny Depp, Nick Cassavetes) lose contact with Earth for two minutes. When they return to Earth, their behavior is strange and when one of them dies and his wife (Donna Murphy) commits suicide it's only the beginning of a terrifying journey for the surviving astronaut's wife (Charlize Theron). Written and directed by Rand Ravich. This was the only feature film directed by Ravich and we should all be grateful. A potentially interesting rip off of ROSEMARY'S BABY (Theron even sports a Mia Farrow haircut from that film) is sabotaged by excess flab when it should be tight and one of the worst film scores I've ever heard, courtesy of George S. Clinton. Ravich gussies up the film with all sorts of unnecessary shots that call attention to an attempt at a visual style to compensate for the inadequacies of the script and the acting of Depp and Theron. I'd be tempted to call it the worst performances of their careers but one can't blame them for bad direction and that they are miscast. To be fair, the film has a spectacular conclusion but we have to wade through an hour and a half of inept film making to arrive there. With Samantha Eggar, Joe Morton, Clea DuVall and Blair Brown.

Reckless (1935)

Although a promoter (William Powell) is in love with his actress client (Jean Harlow), she ends up marrying an alcoholic playboy (Franchot Tone) from a very rich family ..... with tragic results. Produced by David O. Selznick and directed by Victor Fleming (THE WIZARD OF OZ). Very loosely based on a 1931 scandal when torch singer Libby Holman married tobacco heir Zachary Reynolds which ended in his suicide. The scandal was also used (with modifications) as the basis for Sirk's WRITTEN ON THE WIND (1956). In the 1930s, MGM had a habit of putting actors with no singing or dancing abilities into musicals. Thus we had James Stewart, Joan Crawford and Robert Taylor in musicals and here it's Jean Harlow's turn. The opening musical number is very bizarre ending with Harlow getting shot to death and her body tossed away! Harlow has a nice jazz number but it's clear that she has a dance double in the more difficult dance moves. The movie's first half hour or so is tiresome and leads you to believe you're getting a romantic comedy until the film takes a dark turn in its last hour. That's when it kicks into gear and it's pretty good until the film's hokey last five minutes. With Rosalind Russell, May Robson, Henry Stephenson, Allan Jones and Nat Pendleton.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Hotel (1983)

Set in San Francisco, a luxury hotel has a disparate group of guests and incidents to contend with: a married woman (Shirley Jones) has an affair with a man (Pernell Roberts) she just met; a call girl (Morgan Fairchild) is gang raped; an elderly man's (Jack Gilford) sudden death leaves his much younger fiancee (Stephanie Faracy) stranded without funds and the hotel's manager (James Brolin) must find a new assistant while dealing with all the hotel drama. Based on the novel by Arthur Hailey (AIRPORT) and directed by Jerry London (SHOGUN). Hailey's novel had previously been filmed in 1967 and this feature length telefilm was the pilot for a TV series based on the book. Its glamorous but episodic nature allows for a hit and miss formulaic narrative. The only interesting storyline is the raped call girl sequence which is handled sensitively while the others are predictable. Ironically, when it was picked up for a regular TV series (it ran for 5 years) Bette Davis as the hotel's owner was replaced by her ALL ABOUT EVE nemesis Anne Baxter. With Lainie Kazan, Mel Torme, Lloyd Bochner, Connie Selleca, Bill Macy and Erin Moran. 

Monday, May 3, 2021

Angel Face (1953)

An ambulance driver (Robert Mitchum), who has dreams of owning his own auto shop, meets the pretty stepdaughter (Jean Simmons) of a wealthy woman (Barbara O'Neil) who was almost killed by gas. Although involved with another woman (Mona Freeman), he can't help but fall for the girl's charms, not knowing she's a homicidal sociopath. Directed by Otto Preminger (LAURA), this film noir is highly regarded by fans of the genre and it's easy to see why. With her sweet face, who would think of casting Simmons as a mentally unhinged murderess? But like the consummate actress that she is, Simmons gives a marvelous performance barely concealing the rot under a seemingly guileless personality. As the "hero", Mitchum's character is a bit of a dishonest jerk especially in his treatment of the loyal Freeman. One of the darkest of noirs, the movie has one of the most shocking endings in the genre's history. Alas, Preminger was so brutal toward Simmons in the making of the film that she couldn't even get herself to watch it because of the bad memories it conjured up. With Herbert Marshall, Leon Ames, Kenneth Tobey, Jim Backus, Robert Gist and Theresa Harris. 

No Time For Comedy (1940)

A hick (James Stewart) from a small Minnesota town writes a play that turns out to be a surprise hit on Broadway. He and the play's leading lady (Rosalind Russell) fall in love and they're quite happy as he continues to write hit plays for her to star in. But when he has a case of writer's block and another woman (Genevieve Tobin) enters the picture to "inspire" him, trouble in the marriage ensues. Based on the play by S.N. Behrman and directed by William Keighley (THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER). I'm not familiar with Behrman's play which had a six month run on Broadway with Laurence Olivier and Katharine Cornell in the leads but I suspect some changes might have been made for the film (I can't image Olivier as a hick from Minnesota). Stewart's playwright is an annoying and abrasive jerk and not even Stewart's normal charm can make him appealing. The film starts off promisingly but once Stewart and Russell get married, the movie turns into a boring chatter fest with only some of the film's supporting cast to provide some much needed distraction. The most bizarre turn in the film has Louise Beavers as an actress playing a maid in the Broadway show that makes Stewart a success. Jump several years and Beavers is a maid and confidante to Russell with no explanation on why an actress decided to become a maid instead! With Charlie Ruggles, Allyn Joslyn and Frank Faylen. 

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Nomadland (2020)

Set in 2011, a recent widow (Frances McDormand) finds herself jobless when the Gypsum plant, the source of the town's income shuts down. She sells most of her belongings and buys a van and hits the road. Based on the non fiction book NOMADLAND: SURVIVING AMERICA IN THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY by Jessica Bruder and written for the screen and directed by Chloe Zhao. The film has no plot to speak of yet it slowly accumulates into a powerful and emotional journey of freedom in its truest sense. It's an American film yet it reminded me in its execution of some of the great European films of the 1960s, Michelangelo Antonioni in particular and like Fellini, Zhao uses non professional actors (Linda May, Bob Wells, Charlene Swankie) who bring authenticity to the nomadic culture. At the center of the film is McDormand whose Oscar winning performance is marvelous. McDormand's face has her character's life written all over it and her subtle naturalism lets her blend in with her surroundings rather than standing out in a "star" performance. A lovely piece of work. With David Strathairn and Peter Spears.

The Ritz (1976)

After his brother in law (Jerry Stiller) puts out a contract hit on him, the owner (Jack Weston) of a garbage company in Cleveland hides out in the last place his brother in law would think of looking for him ..... a gay bathhouse in Manhattan. Based on the play by Terrence McNally and directed by Richard Lester (PETULIA). This loony farce was a hit on Broadway but its transition to film is rocky. While the premise is ripe with possibilities, the material just isn't strong enough to sustain itself to the end. It's a one joke idea that wears out its welcome fairly quickly. You can't fault the actors (with much of the Broadway cast recreating their roles), they huff and puff and spin like whirling dervishes to get a laugh but a grin is more likely to happen. Richard Lester can be a whiz at comedy as he proved with his Beatles films and the two MUSKETEERS movies but he can't seem to connect to the material here. But the acting is good with two performances that stand out: Rita Moreno recreating her stage role as an aspiring but untalented Latina actress and Treat Williams has a detective with an unfortunately high voice. Also in the cast: F. Murray Abraham, Kaye Ballard, Paul B. Price, Bessie Love and Dave King.