cinemaspeak59

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Everything posted by cinemaspeak59

  1. cinemaspeak59

    Recently Watched Horror

    The Mummy's Curse (1944). Lackluster installment of Universal’s Mummy films. This was the fifth and last of the original series. We find the undead Mummy, Kharis (Lon Chaney Jr.) in the Louisiana swampland, how he got there from Egypt is weakly explained away as American archeologists accidently looking for Princess Ananka, instead finding the Mummy. Since this is horror, it’s no big deal. The problem is the whole thing looks like something Universal wanted to put out fast and cheap and be done with. The acting is wooden, with bad Cajun accents. Nothing really stands out. The only wrinkle is Ananka’s anthropomorphism. The poor girl is being stalked by jealous boyfriend Kharis, so she hides out with the mortals, amazing everyone with her knowledge of Egyptology! In fact, Kharis isn’t the worst villain; that honor belongs to the High Priest’s acolyte, who becomes drunk with power upon learning the history of the Mummy and the elixir that are tana leaves. There is a positive though: the 63 minute running time.
  2. cinemaspeak59

    "Burnt Offerings" in Bluray

    Same here, it's a well-crafted horror yarn.
  3. cinemaspeak59

    Unheralded Actors Who Deserve Our Admiration

    Yeah, Verree Teasdale was good at playing likeable snobs, and could fill out an evening dress with the best of them. I don’t know if they were necessarily unheralded, but Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore were great character actors who made every movie they were in better.
  4. cinemaspeak59

    I Just Watched...

    Baby Face (1933). This sexually-charged pre-code features Barbara Stanwyck in one of her best early roles. We’re introduced to her as Lily Powers, a poor unhappy girl slaving away at her father’s bawdily depressing speakeasy, where she must fend off troglodyte males. She hates her brutal father, who pimped her out as a young girl. His death in a fire accident for Lily is liberation. The only person Lily trusts, and cares for, is her African-American maid (Theresa Harris). You can take the lesbian subtext, or you can leave it. A bombastic shoe cobbler (with a forceful rhetoric and cadence not unlike Hitler), aptly named Adolf Cragg, assumes a Svengali-like role, telling Lily to read Nietzsche, and weaponize her body to rise to the top. Lily follows his advice in spades. For there its one sexual conquest after another, first a railroad worker, followed by a string of bank executives. Lily exerts a vice-grip over men, in effect becoming a vampire. Stanwyck’s cold eroticism, that laser-like come-hither stare will come full circle 11 years later in Double Indemnity. Baby Face has murder, suicide, high finance (sort of) and Haute couture, as Lily’s wardrobe, and houses, improve with each rung of the economic ladder she climbs. The third act is the weakest, as Baby Face settles into a cozy, neatly wrapped melodrama. The film can be read as feminist manifesto, a #MeToo clarion call. It’s a portrait of a long-suffering woman turning the tables on the patriarchy, the only practical way she knew how. With George Brent as a wily bank president, and Lily's genuine love interest. Look for John Wayne in an unmemorable bit role. The other performances that stood out are Alphonse Ethier as the aforementioned Adolf Cragg, and a tortured Donald Cook as Ned Stevens, one of several men who meet their downfall in Lily.
  5. cinemaspeak59

    WOULD YOU HAVE DONE THE SAME?

    I know the feeling about cats. I like to think my cat lives with me, but it's more like she's being nice enough to let me live with her.
  6. I just recently listened to Pepper for the first time in a long while. Read the liner notes and Geoff Emerick is mentioned. I didn't know about him walking out of the White Album sessions. Thanks for the info, jakeem. I actually think the White Album, as a straight forward rock record, may be their best work.
  7. cinemaspeak59

    Recently Watched Romantic Comedies

    I don't know if Pillow Talk (1959) is the prototype romantic comedy, but we see it's story-line in today's movies. The single, successful career woman great at her job but unlucky in love. In Pillow Talk, Doris Day plays an interior decorator living in a squeaky-clean New York. Her only problem is a telephone party line she shares with a playboy songwriter, played with droll brilliance by Rock Hudson, who composes Broadway tunes. Day can't help but listening to his insincere sweet talk with women, revolted but fascinated at the same time. And Hudson knows how to push her buttons, in effect telling her to find a man and stop living vicariously through his amorous adventures. They meet by chance at a glamorous nightclub called the COPA del RIO, where Hudson knows her identity, but she doesn't know he's the jerk that's monopolizing her phone. Hudson pretends he's Rex Stetson, an aw-shucks Texan. (I loved the way Hudson keeps referring to Doris’s character as Ma'am, stretching the word out for effect). From there the film becomes a mad romp, sprinkled with delightful sexual banter. (The writing team won an Oscar for original screenplay). Tony Randall and Thelma Ritter provide great supporting work, Randall as Hudson's neurotic best friend (a role he excelled at), and Ritter as Doris's boozing maid. Alan Jenkins, the fine character actor from Hollywood’s golden era, plays an elevator operator. We know how it ends. Spoiler Alert: Happily, ever after. The production design is a beaut: Rock's bachelor pad is a young man's dream, and Doris's wardrobe could serve as a Vogue fashion spread.
  8. cinemaspeak59

    Recently Watched SF & Fantasy

    I think the filmmakers didn’t want to tinker with the formula that worked before. And as you point out, Chris Pratt’s star power makes up for any shortcomings.
  9. cinemaspeak59

    What do you want for Oscars month?

    I'd like to see Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (1960). It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
  10. cinemaspeak59

    Recently Watched SF & Fantasy

    The Meg (2018). This is sort of like Jaws (1975) meets Deep Blue Sea (1999), lacking the brilliant psychological horror of the former and not as enjoyably serious as the latter. Jason Statham stars as an underwater daredevil, summoned when a submarine is stranded at the ocean floor. Instead of battling international terrorists, the nemesis is the Megalodon, a 75-foot prehistoric shark. Featuring an international cast, there’s a nice balance of action, humor and romance. Rainn Wilson plays a billionaire hipster who finances an oceanic research mission, but whose motives remain suspect. The special effects could have been better, but overall this is solid escapist entertainment. The Meg has done quite well at the box office, and there’s talk of a sequel.
  11. cinemaspeak59

    The Naked Spur (1953)

    Watching The Naked Spur (1953), set in 1869, I kept wondering why Robert Ryan’s character Ben Vandergroat was grinning so effusively after being captured by James Stewart’s bounty hunter Howard (Howie) Kemp. I found it strange. Another character fond of showing his pearly whites was Roy Anderson, a cavalry officer, played by a mustachioed Ralph Meeker, who two years later would play Mike Hammer in the great noir Kiss Me Deadly. As the film unfolds, it becomes clear that Ben and Roy are borderline sociopaths. Ben is wanted for murdering a marshall, and Roy ambushes peaceful Indians to cover up past transgressions. The scene of the Native American massacre, today, is exponentially more horrifying. But Howie is no epitome of virtue: Emotionally damaged, and betrayed by his wife while fighting in the Civil War, Stewart’s Howie is hardened and ruthless and concerned only with returning Ben to the authorities so as to collect the $5,000 reward. What drove Howie to his state is revealed in a fever-fueled delirium, with Howie drenched in sweat thinking he’s back home with his wife. In with this group is Jesse, a sad old prospector looking for one last score: gold. He’ll follow any lead, trust any crook, as long as they bring the prized fortune he’s been exhausting most of his life seeking. Jesse is played by Millard Mitchell, who gives a touching performance, much like his work in Winchester ’73 (1950). Janet Leigh plays Lina, Ben’s girlfriend; the only person not blinded single-minded greed. All five of them set off on a long journey from Colorado to return Ben to Kansas and hand him over to the authorities. The introductory titles are a bold red-orange, set against the Rocky Mountains. The green pine trees surrounded by white mountain peaks under a blue sky make for gorgeous scenery, clean and pure. This setting is the opposite of the men on screen. In the end, Lina and Howie are the only two left standing. After fighting to preserve the Union, and fighting to save his marriage, Howie finally gets his reward - and it’s not the $5,000. It is Lina. I’m glad TCM has showcased Anthony Mann westerns. Host Tiffany Vazquez provided insightful introductions. It seems westerns can have a sub-genre in Anthony Mann-directed westerns: They are among the finest, and are so much more than just good vs. bad.
  12. cinemaspeak59

    Dan Duryea

    All good choices here. I'll just pick three: Too Late for Tears (as TomJH says, he knows when he's met his match), The Woman in the Window (he's playing two roles here) and Winchester 73, a great Western by Anthony Mann
  13. cinemaspeak59

    All About Eve: new stage production in London

    I like the casting choices. Both are fine actresses. Lily James has mostly done period pieces, playing refined liberated characters. The role that was different was in Baby Driver (2017), in which she brought a refreshing edge to her character.
  14. cinemaspeak59

    Recently Watched Horror

    The Nun (2018). I was disappointed by this. It’s advertised as being brought to us by the team that made The Conjuring. And James Wan, who directed two great horror pictures: Insidious and The Conjuring, co-wrote the story. The Nun relies on a barrage of cheap, ineffective scares. The filmmakers seem to have taken a page from Dracula (1931). The Abbey resembles Castle Dracula. The setting is Romania (not Transylvania). And the Van Helsing role is played by Taissa Farmiga. Even the production design has an old-school look. There’s plenty of medieval Catholic imagery, and even a priest who specializes in exorcisms. Basically, it’s about ridding the Abbey of a demon called the Valak, that takes on the appearance of a nun. It’s all been done before, and better. The performances, however, are pretty good. If I had to grade it, I’d give it a C+.
  15. cinemaspeak59

    Imaginary Places You'd Like to Visit

    I'd like to travel back in time to 1933 New York City and hang around the theater where the musical 42nd Street takes place, then travel forward to 1960 Rome and accompany Marcello Mastroianni's character to observe the glitterati in La Dolce Vita. I'm choosing safe places. As much as I love film noir, I don't want to take my chances with a femme fatale.
  16. cinemaspeak59

    Noir Alley

    My list changes based on the latest films I've seen. I just saw Too Late for Tears (1949), and enjoyed Lizabeth Scott's performance as the femme fatale. Also, in Born to Be Bad (1950), Joan Fontaine's character doesn't murder anyone, but she's as manipulative and amoral as they come. I haven't seen Decoy yet, but it sounds really good.
  17. cinemaspeak59

    Noir Alley

    I enjoyed The Locket (1946). The question, of course, is whether Nancy (Laraine Day) killed Mr. Bonner (Ricardo Cortez). At the conclusion, Nancy is shown going away for psychiatric treatment, not jail, so perhaps she didn’t commit murder. The film had a dreamy look, and some great framing devices, in particular Nancy’s horrified expression, in the third act, when she looks down at the music box, her wedding veil distorted. Another was the closeup of a mad-eyed Nancy, when her husband discovers the bracelet belonging to Lady Wyndham, that was buried in the rubble. It was interesting to hear this was a hot script going around Hollywood, with Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland wanting to play the lead.
  18. The Day the Earth Stood Still resonates 65 years after its release. It looks splendid, one of the best science fiction pictures ever made. The visual effects may be technically primitive; but artistically they’re timeless. The sound effects also deserve praise; in particular, the deafening ringing Gort employs to revive Klaatu. The eerie score, and nourish lighting, mirror the undercurrent of menace that lurks in Klaatu: He’s peaceful, and kind, but no push-over, with little patience in human nature’s flaws, the dark side genetically induced to war and violence. Nor does Klaatu take an ideological side in the escalating Cold War. This in itself is a political statement. Klaatu remains one of cinema’s most allegorically fascinating characters. True to form, humanity responds militarily to the alien invasion. Even after the seemingly omnipotent robot Gort disintegrates weapons pointed at it, and the shut down of all electrical power for as long as the aliens damn well please, we persist in our delusional superiority, that if we capture Klaatu everything will return to normal. Humanity needed a comeuppance. The Day the Earth Stood Still provided it. Kudos to director Robert Wise, one of Hollywood’s most accomplished genre film makers.
  19. cinemaspeak59

    TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949)

    I had already seen Too Late for Tears before watching it again. It is a great film noir. Lizabeth Scott’s role as the femme fatale can go up against any femme fatale past and future. She’s sexy, smart, and determined. What I liked was that Dan Duryea’s character was a low-level hood, but even he was no match for Scott, being in awe of her intelligence and ruthlessness, calling her Tiger. He was even turned on by it. The only person Scott truly cared for was her husband, played by Arthur Kennedy, but her first love was money. We know in the first act Scott is not the ideal wife by the way she drives, dangerously fast and steely-eyed, once the sack of cash is thrown into their car. Don DeFore and Kristine Miller, as the film’s moral symbols, were also very good. As has been mentioned here, Too Late for Tears is similar in storyline to Double Indemnity. The print I recently saw was the restored 35mm print. After this, I’m looking forward to re-watching Dead Reckoning from 1947, which pairs Scott with Humphrey Bogart.
  20. cinemaspeak59

    TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949)

    You're right. He's actually a better detective than the police. I think it's him putting two and two together once he had the pond dredged.
  21. cinemaspeak59

    Claire's Knee (1970)

    Claire’s Knee (1970), is the fifth film in Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales. This one explores the force of temptation, desire, and the human frailty of self-deception. Jean-Claude Brialy plays Jerome, a diplomat vacationing at a scenic lakeside resort, so picturesque, as one character observes, that it’s boring. There Jerome spots Aurora (Aurora Cornu), a former lover and romance novelist, looking for inspiration for her next book. Aurora observes with wry detachment as Laura (Beatrice Romand), a neighbor’s teenage daughter, develops a crush on Jerome. Jerome professes complete happiness with his current partner, Lucinda, who remains off-screen. Other women bore him. Yet he’s unsure how to respond toward Laura, who is savvy, and mature beyond her years. The appearance of Claire (Laurence de Monaghan), Laura’s half-sister, complicates things further. For Jerome, there’s now a new object of desire: Claire’s knee, which he must touch, literally touch, and nothing more. Rohmer was a Catholic intellectual. He subscribes to the Thomistic philosophy that we’re endowed with free will. Desire may compel Jerome to go further, but reason ultimately prevails. I found Jerome rather arrogant, but not unlikable. It’s amusing watching him discuss the conquest of his temptation, in minute detail, in that exhilarating language that is the cinema of Rohmer. Aurora listens patiently, but ultimately, to Jerome’s disappointment, finds his saga banal and bourgeois, a gentle but witty rebuke to the folly of male vanity. His vacation over, Jerome returns home with a clean and satisfied conscience. Everyone is happy. Aurora has a lover Jerome met but unaware the two were involved. And the young people, Laura and Claire, whom Jerome tried to influence with the most noble of intentions, and at times not so noble, understood him far better than he did them.
  22. cinemaspeak59

    8 1/2

    Nice review, CaveGirl. 8 1/2 indeed shows how all-consuming being a director is. Claudia Cardinale's character Claudia, is almost ghost-like. She's the one woman in which Mastroianni's self-defenses melt away. I too love this film.
  23. cinemaspeak59

    Recently Watched Pre-Codes

    Jewel Robbery (1932) is a witty, and oh so naughty Pre-code from Warner Bros. Kay Francis displays a deft comedic touch as the wife of a wealthy but dull government official. The film is set in Vienna. Along with her friend Marianne (a great Helen Vinson), they like gossiping about husbands and lovers which, of course, are not the same thing. Kay loves diamonds and expensive clothes, and while visiting a prestigious jeweler to pick up a gift from her husband, she has a wonderful experience: she's robbed. Not by a thuggish amateur, but by William Powell's suave professional, who carries a revolver, but his preferred method of subduing the police is by giving them "funny" cigarettes. They'll give you a marvelous appetite, he tells one clueless but deliriously happy victim. Kay falls immediately in love with Powell's character, going so far as to deceive the police so he won't get caught. It's so much fun watching Kay put on a facade of resistance when alone with Powell, after all, she's a married and respectable woman! Jewel Robbery is a breezy little gem, and it shows why Kay Francis was one of Warner Bros. biggest stars during the Pre-Code years.
  24. cinemaspeak59

    Summer with Monika (1953)

    Summer with Monika (1953) is a rather straightforward Ingmar Bergman film, before he began exploring the heady theological and philosophical questions that make his work so intriguing, and that place him in the pantheon of cinema’s greatest directors. Two young lovers, Monika and Harry, escape from their enervating jobs in the city. They find idyllic happiness on a secluded island, living like castaways, with Monika (Harriet Andersson) frolicking naked. Days seemingly last forever. Caressing sunlight dances off faces, plants, water. Eventually, rations and patience disappear. Monika resorts to stealing food, and her personality slowly changes from nice to nasty, as another suitor vies for her attention. Summer with Monika reminded me of a Hollywood Pre-Code drama, while still maintaining a Euro arthouse vibe, with the cautionary message that free-love and living off the earth eventually crash into the reality of modern life. Monika’s pregnancy signals the beginning of the end of the couple’s relationship. The film is notable for Gunnar Fischer’s exquisite black & white photography, and the authentic performances. Lars Ekborg as the honorable and decent Harry garners sympathy. While Summer with Monika does not soar, it’s still relevant as a portrait of an emerging auteur.
  25. cinemaspeak59

    Fallen Angel (1945)

    Exactly. And Dana Andrews makes up for his past sins.

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