TopBilled

TopBilled’s Essentials

625 posts in this topic

10 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

I don't know, Ray. I find it interesting there was a nearly ten year gap between the play and TV movie. Maybe Universal bought it and sat on it for a few years. At some point it was decided it would work better for television, instead of as a feature film.

It seems similar to "Tea and Sympathy" - two lonely souls reaching out for each other, extramarital sex, and a college setting and a parting of the ways for the two principals.

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6 minutes ago, rayban said:

It seems similar to "Tea and Sympathy" - two lonely souls reaching out for each other, extramarital sex, and a college setting and a parting of the ways for the two principals.

Anderson obviously had themes and situations he liked to revisit. Like Tennessee Williams did. In some ways these guys were just rewriting earlier successes.

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2 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Anderson obviously had themes and situations he liked to revisit. Like Tennessee Williams did. In some ways these guys were just rewriting earlier successes.

I bought the playscript from ebay.

I've always been interested in reading it.

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3 hours ago, rayban said:

I bought the playscript from ebay.

I've always been interested in reading it.

Will you also watch the TV adaptation? It's on YouTube.

Though someone else adapted Anderson's play for television, it felt very stage-based. Not stage bound because they've opened it up so much, but you can tell the original source is a play.

The dialogue is very literate and the whole situation plays out in the course of a day, from afternoon to the following morning. The characters just spend one night together.

I really love the scene where they are talking with the younger couple. In the TV movie they end up taking the younger couple to a bus stop so they can catch a bus to be with their family on Christmas. When the bus pulls away the shot where Jones and Bridges are watching it drive off is very memorable. It was like they'd just had this great life-affirming moment with the younger couple, whom they will never see again. And of course since they are not a couple themselves, they will never see each other again after tomorrow. It really gives you a lot to think about.

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Essential: PENDULUM (1969)

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Director George Schaefer was known primarily for his work in TV and this would be his first theatrical movie. PENDULUM has plenty of star power-- you couldn't ask for two more intriguing leads than George Peppard and Jean Seberg. They're assisted by some noteworthy supporting players including Richard Kiley, Madeleine Sherwood and Robert F. Lyons. Even the minor characters, such as a secretary in the form of Marj Dusay or a housekeeper in the form of Isabel Sanford, are competently played. There really are no missteps with any of the performances. And Schaefer's direction gets the job done.

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But I think the story required something a bit more cinematic. The camera tends to remain static in most shots, as if filming a teleplay. There is no innovative use of lighting or sound effects. Even the climactic final sequence is done pretty much by the book. What we have is something with a lot of potential, that could have been quite powerful, in the hands of a master like Alfred Hitchcock. Instead we get something that is still good, but formulaic.

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Seberg's character is killed off after the first half hour. She plays the wife of a cop (Peppard) who is too busy with work to pay much attention to her. So she fills those hours in the company of others. Soon he has started suspecting her of cheating. Sometimes when he takes a cigarette break he calls around to see if she's keeping hair appointments, or if she might be with a lover. There is one very effective scene when he spies her in a hotel parking lot with an attractive man. Just when it seems as if she's going to kiss her hypothetical boyfriend another car drives in between obstructing Peppard's vision and ours. So we never know if it was a friendly peck on the cheek or a romantic kiss.

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The story kicks into gear after she's been murdered and we learn Peppard had deliberately gone out of town with the idea of coming back to surprise her and a lover. But when he gets there, she and the lover have been slain and of course Peppard emerges as the number one suspect. Her affair and his jealous streak give him motive. Tied into this is the fact that a confessed killer, played by Lyons, has had his conviction thrown out because he was not properly Mirandized. Because Lyons was not read his rights before his confession, he has been allowed back on the streets. And since Peppard is the one who originally arrested him, Lyons might might have been the one who offed Seberg if he's out for revenge.

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There isn't much suspense, because we know one of the two men killed Seberg. Since Peppard seldom if ever played a murderer, and since Lyons is giving his best Norman Bates imitation, we can be fairly sure who the culprit is. The story at this point becomes more of a police procedural, where Peppard tries to catch Lyons, even though he's been instructed to let his boss (Kiley) and other cops handle the case.

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This film has a very conservative political slant. It's part of a backlash in 1969 against the use of the Miranda warning. At the end when Lyons is finally nabbed and read his rights, we know he will go to jail and stay in jail this time. But Kiley and Peppard have some dialogue where Kiley tells Peppard that even cops benefit by having their rights protected, but the rights of a killer basically do not mean anything since they're guilty anyway. Given the chance to roam the streets freely they will kill again.

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PENDULUM may be viewed on YouTube.

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Essential: IN SEARCH OF GREGORY (1969)

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This is a rather obscure title. Universal lost faith in the film when it bombed with test audiences. And any plans to publicize it were abandoned by the studio. So after a limited release in North America GREGORY died a sudden death.

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The whole thing rests on Julie Christie's performance. She's in 80% of the scenes. But she has enough magnetism and star power to carry the flimsy story.  Peter Wood (his real name by the way) is probably the wrong director for this picture. It should have had someone behind the camera who could have brought more visual style and flair to the proceedings. But it still works the way it is, and I find it rather whimsical and charming.

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Some critics have blasted the casting of Michael Sarrazin as the title character. But it almost makes the story more amusing if the object of her affection is not a super attractive or super mysterious person. She's a wacky girl and following after some elusive guy who plays auto-ball puts her in a league of her own. I wouldn't describe her as desperate or crazy but she's certainly different.

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Her brother Daniel (John Hurt) is different, too. He is written and performed as a closet case. Daniel develops his own obsessive relationship with Gregory. In a way Gregory who is not technically real on any level is an idealized version of what brother and sister both look for in others. This is even sadder when one realizes they're struggling to find something they never had with their father. It's a psychologically complex tale and while it comes across as unusual in spots the themes run deep.

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I do think this film came out at the wrong time. Audiences in 1969 probably were not quite ready to embrace something so "free" and "unstructured." If GREGORY had come along later it might have been a much bigger hit. It's such a quirky, fun and hopelessly romantic picture. And more importantly it's a film that holds up to multiple viewings and interpretations.

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Search for GREGORY on YouTube. You should be able to find him there.

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55 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Essential: IN SEARCH OF GREGORY (1969)

Screen Shot 2018-08-16 at 5.25.05 PM.jpg

This is a rather obscure title. Universal lost faith in the film when it bombed with test audiences. And any plans to publicize it were abandoned by the studio. So after a limited release in North America GREGORY died a sudden death.

Screen Shot 2018-06-08 at 1.19.07 PM.jpg

The whole thing rests on Julie Christie's performance. She's in 80% of the scenes. But she has enough magnetism and star power to carry the flimsy story.  Peter Wood (his real name by the way) is probably the wrong director for this picture. It should have had someone behind the camera who could have brought more visual style and flair to the proceedings. But it still works the way it is, and I find it rather whimsical and charming.

Screen Shot 2018-08-09 at 7.07.23 PM.png

Some critics have blasted the casting of Michael Sarrazin as the title character. But it almost makes the story more amusing if the object of her affection is not a super attractive or super mysterious person. She's a wacky girl and following after some elusive guy who plays auto-ball puts her in a league of her own. I wouldn't describe her as desperate or crazy but she's certainly different.

Screen Shot 2018-08-09 at 7.08.03 PM.png

Her brother Daniel (John Hurt) is different, too. He is written and performed as a closet case. Daniel develops his own obsessive relationship with Gregory. In a way Gregory who is not technically real on any level is an idealized version of what brother and sister both look for in others. This is even sadder when one realizes they're struggling to find something they never had with their father. It's a psychologically complex tale and while it comes across as unusual in spots the themes run deep.

Screen Shot 2018-08-09 at 7.57.27 PM.png

I do think this film came out at the wrong time. Audiences in 1969 probably were not quite ready to embrace something so "free" and "unstructured." If GREGORY had come along later it might have been a much bigger hit. It's such a quirky, fun and hopelessly romantic picture. And more importantly it's a film that holds up to multiple viewings and interpretations.

Screen Shot 2018-08-09 at 8.04.27 PM.png

Search for GREGORY on YouTube. You should be able to find him there.

Beautiful review, maybe you can resurrect the reputation of this film.

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I think I have seen the Shirley Jones TV movie... or part of it. Otherwise these are all titles I am not all that familiar with, even though I have seen plenty from the late sixties. Of course, when I think of this era, I think of the big films that revolutionized "New Hollywood" and made all of the movie reference books. You know, Camille 2000, Goodbye Columbus, A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Valley Of The Gwangi... yeah, I do have peculiar tastes myself.

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On 8/18/2018 at 10:59 AM, rayban said:

Beautiful review, maybe you can resurrect the reputation of this film.

All we can do is hope that when someone reads a review they decide to check out the film and judge it for themselves. I feel as if this is a picture that deserves a chance.

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Sometime you should check out the old Dan Peary Cult Movies books, which include an in-depth article on this one. Not sure which of the three books (all published in the '80s) can be read online.

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Essential: ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969)

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The theme is Louis Armstrong's "We Have All the Time in the World." But anyone who's seen this film knows that Bond and his girl Tracy don't really have much time together at all. There is a melancholy note that hovers over this sixth installment of the Bond series. In fact the tragic love story that plays out for 140 minutes has a far more lingering effect than the considerable suspense and requisite action scenes.

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To be honest I didn't know what to expect. It had been awhile since I reviewed the Bond films starring Roger Moore. I wasn't sure if going backward would make me a bit more critical-- especially if the early stuff seemed less sophisticated. But the opening sequence where Bond meets Tracy (Diana Rigg) had me hooked. And it wasn't difficult at all to get a feel for George Lazenby as 007 in what would be his one and only turn playing the character.

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Tracy bookends the drama. In the beginning Bond saves her when she nearly drowns. And in the end, she dies in his arms after being fatally shot. It is probably the most memorable final scene of any film in the series. Director Peter Hunt was going to save the death scene till the beginning of the next film. Good thing that didn't happen. We really needed everything to come full circle. What makes it unusual is that so many Bond girls come and go, and there are several sexual conquests for the super agent in this picture, but Tracy gets the guy. It's refreshing that Bond actually does pick one woman to settle down with and marry. Even if the union is short-lived.

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This installment benefits from a smart performance by Telly Savalas as arch rival Blofeld. He's up to some very bad things. A group of women staying at his Swiss hideout are brainwashed to sterilize the world's food supply. Don't ask me how they are supposed to do that. I guess we're expected to be so enamored by them, like Bond is during one of the segments, that it doesn't matter how they carry out Blofeld's nefarious plans-- only that they have been trained to do it.

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Blofield has a German hench woman named Irma who's just as lethal. At one point she and her men go chasing after Bond along the Swiss Alps. It's a hair-raising sequence. While making his escape Bond crosses paths again with Tracy which leads into some of the film's most romantic scenes. These moments play out when they become stranded in a blizzard.

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While I think this is a great film and can see why it ranks as number one among many fans, I do feel its running time is too long. Probably 15 minutes could have been cut without harming the flow of the story. Some of the stuff in Blofeld's hideout is a bit repetitive. I wanted to know more about Tracy's background, especially her father, who had been in cahoots with Blofield. I think there was much more to these characters than we were able to see on screen, though from what I've read this production is more faithful to the original source material than a lot of the other pictures in the series.

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There is not an over reliance on gadgets or getaways. It's more about Bond the man and the meaningful relationships he develops on the job. And about this extraordinary love he experiences. His wife's death is quite shocking. Part of me wishes that she'd lived but been spirited away by Blofeld. I didn't want Bond and Tracy's story to end...I wanted her to come back to him in a sequel.

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ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE may currently be streamed on Starz.

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Granted, she isn't the first Bond gal to meet her doom since Sean Connery's 007 also had sex with Jill Masterson (Shirley Easton) and, despite Goldfinger being my personal favorite of the franchise, I always felt Sean should have shed a few tears for her. At least here we know George Lazenby's Bond feels emotion over his loss. I think it is because she is played by Diana Rigg, a counterpart action-gal from The Avengers. This was the same series that featured Honor Blackman, whose P-Galore instantly wiped out his memories of both Masterson sisters in Goldfinger. (Even if he didn't exactly score with Mustang-driving Tilly, he certainly wanted to.)

I agree that this 007 runs on too long and can use the snippers, but several others are equally guilty of this. I have sat through Thunderball three times and twice I started snoozing during the underwater scenes in the second hour. Yet a lot of effort went into that film's stunts as with this one and the producers wanted enough of it left in-tact on screen. Because of the stunts, I think this one had a longer than usual filming period (October 1968 through June 1969) than most of the others.

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Coming up...

September: Republic Pictures

Some of the studio's output in different genres. 

ROSIE THE RIVETER (1944)...a charming morale booster with Jane Frazee
LAKE PLACID SERENADE (1944)...Vera Ralston on ice in her first starring role
VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES (1946)...a strange but highly entertaining B horror flick

FAIR WIND TO JAVA (1953)...top of the line adventure film with Fred MacMurray
WHEN GANGLAND STRIKES (1956)...a crime drama that features popular TV actors

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4 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Coming up...

September: Republic Pictures

Some of the studio's output in different genres. 

ROSIE THE RIVETER (1944)...a charming morale booster with Jane Frazee
LAKE PLACID SERENADE (1944)...Vera Ralston on ice in her first starring role
VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES (1946)...a strange but highly entertaining B horror flick

FAIR WIND TO JAVA (1953)...top of the line adventure film with Fred MacMurray
WHEN GANGLAND STRIKES (1956)...a crime drama that features popular TV actors

Screen shot 2016-04-02 at 1.14.33 PM.jpg

Will these films be shown on TCM?

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1 hour ago, rayban said:

Will these films be shown on TCM?

Thanks for asking Ray. Unfortunately, these titles are not airing on TCM in the near future. Hopefully by reviewing them in this thread, we can create more awareness about Republic Pictures. The films do turn up in other places.

ROSIE THE RIVETER was posted in its entirety on the Paramount Vault page a few years ago, which is where I first saw it. It is currently on YouTube...but of course, I'm not sure how long it will remain on YT.

LAKE PLACID SERENADE is very hard to come by and to my knowledge has never been available on a home video format. I obtained a copy from a collector. 

VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES has been available for streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime in the past. Chances are it will become available again since classic horror films are always popular.

FAIR WIND TO JAVA is currently on YouTube.

WHEN GANGLAND STRIKES is also currently on YouTube.

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I remember Jane Frazee as one of a trio of Alices in those wonderful Joe McDoakes 1-reelers that Warner Brothers released alongside their Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies in the forties and fifties. She only appeared in a few titles and lacked a bit of chemistry with star George O'Hanlon, but was also far less aggressive than Jane Harker. Then again, I was probably biased towards both actresses because I absolutely adore Phyllis Coates (still living today in her nineties) who was briefly married to the series director Richard L. Bare and I think he found her his "muse" in her marriage on screen to O'Hanlon.

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Essential: ROSIE THE RIVETER (1944)

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Paramount controls the Republic Pictures library of films. About one thousand features were made by Republic from 1935 to 1959. More than two-thirds of them have been digitally restored by Paramount, which is a great thing for classic film fans-- especially fans of Republic's output. About two years ago Paramount uploaded some of these restored titles on its official YouTube page. ROSIE THE RIVETER was uploaded, and it's when I first had a chance to see it.

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I guess you could call it a feminist musical comedy, though I am sure the word feminist was not really applied to it back then. Its primary virtue in 1944 was that it was a morale booster, probably geared for female audiences who worked in factories like Jane Frazee's character does in the movie. They were all doing their part for the war effort while the men were away fighting.

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Jane Frazee had originally been signed to Universal around 1940. She appeared in quite a few musical comedies at Universal during the early part of the war. But by 1944 her contract had ended and she was offered a new contract at MGM and at Republic. She chose to sign with Republic. It’s easy to see why she liked working for Herbert Yates’ company and picked Republic in favor of MGM. She was treated like a queen and always had nice roles, good songs and above the title billing. Plus she had some really pleasant leading men to work with at Republic, so I’m sure she went home after shooting scenes with a smile on her face.

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Republic cast the actress in westerns, comedies and of course, musicals like ROSIE THE RIVETER. The set-up for this picture is rather basic and reminds me of RAFTER ROMANCE, a precode about young people with opposite schedules sharing a room. This idea was used in other films like THE MORE THE MERRIER. The war years were known for housing shortages and women working in factories. What good would Hollywood be if it did not depict that on screen?

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In our story Jane and her girlfriend Vera Vague end up sharing a room in a boarding house with two single men who have opposite work schedules. Since this film was made while the production code was in full force, the two single women and two single men are technically sharing the same beds, just at different hours. The boarding house is run by a strict landlady (Maude Eburne) who of course will not allow any hanky panky.

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Jane, Vera and the guys usually interact when one group is coming home from the nearby factory and the other group is getting ready to go to the factory to start their shift. There are squabbles about the upkeep of the room. But while battling each other, the two couples end up falling in love. During the film the characters use some interesting slang that was probably commonplace during that era. For instance I had never heard the word schmoodle used before. And they also say 'making woo' which I assume means 'making love.'

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Jane's performance is at all times sincere and likable. Vera's performance is given over to wisecracks and deadpan deliveries. There's a lot of witty dialogue from beginning to end. One highlight is a memorable scene where the gals have no clothes on and are locked out of the boarding house in the rain. They get picked up by the police. But the best part is a rousing musical finale filmed on location at an actual aviation factory. There's no other word for it, except riveting.

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ROSIE THE RIVETER may currently be viewed on YouTube.

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Yeah, "shmoodle" wasn't often used although "making woo" was, often in animated cartoons of the period. Speaking of cartoons, Vera Vague was, as Barbara Jo Allen, a popular radio personality who appeared in some nifty Columbia comedy shorts of the forties along with her character actress work in features AND occasional cartoon voices, particularly later in her career for Disney. She did the voice of Fauna in Sleeping Beauty.

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On 9/1/2018 at 5:54 PM, Jlewis said:

Yeah, "shmoodle" wasn't often used although "making woo" was, often in animated cartoons of the period. Speaking of cartoons, Vera Vague was, as Barbara Jo Allen, a popular radio personality who appeared in some nifty Columbia comedy shorts of the forties along with her character actress work in features AND occasional cartoon voices, particularly later in her career for Disney. She did the voice of Fauna in Sleeping Beauty.

Barbara Jo Allen is in the next film I will be reviewing on Saturday:

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Is Vera Vague the brunette in the checked jacket above?  Yipes - she looks just like my mother in that era, except for the blue eyes.

(Isn't the phrase "pitching woo?")

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1 minute ago, Emily Emerac said:

Is Vera Vague the brunette in the checked jacket above?  Yipes - she looks just like my mother in that era, except for the blue eyes.

(Isn't the phrase "pitching woo?")

Is it pitching woo? I will need to go back and re-watch that scene. Yes, Barbara Jo Allen (Vera Vague) is the woman in the checked jacket.

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