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I Just Watched...

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Wow. 

So what with it being Friday the 13th and the world being SO hopelessly messed up, I just felt a strong craving this afternoon to watch something NUTS from the 70s.

so I saw THE WICKER MAN (1973) for the first time. (Even payed to rent it on Amazon prime)

I had never seen it before, but I am so familiar with parodies of the god awful 2006 remake, that I had some idea of what it was about and even how it ended. I don't think that affected my viewing though. It's been called THE CITIZEN KANE of horror movies, and the only thing  I question about that statement is labeling the film a "horror"movie. I thought it was a brilliant film, and a gorgeous film – one of the most visually stunning I've seen in a while – but I don't think it was a horror movie. I saw it as a pitch black comedy, a social satire very much in the vein of Aldous Huxley at his balltripping best. 

I see the director only did one other film, I understand, I imagine it was something of a curse making such a unique film your first time out, The last shot of this thing is absolutely perfect. Most directors would kill to get a shot like this once in their lifetime. It was one of those cases where if the filmmakers and actors hadn't been so good at their craft, the various questions about the plot and anachronisms would've bought the whole thing down. But the people who are making it so clearly know what they're doing that you put all your doubts aside and just go along for the ride.

this thing was BONKERS

It's probably the best role Christopher Lee ever had, not that that's saying much. There's one really funny scene where he looks kind a like Saruman in his younger days during spring break from drama school. The male lead, who all apologies his name escapes me right now and I don't have time to IMDb it, it was absolutely excellent. I mean if his performance hadn't been so strong, none of the movie would've worked. It's a bizarre, challenging film and he holds the whole thing on his shoulders wonderfully.

if you are an Anglophile who enjoys scenes of UK countrysides, this is the film for you. Ditto if you are a person who's interested in plants, it's just uncanny that I was possessed to watch this right at the start of spring.

This would make an excellent companion film with WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE RULING CLASS, THE DEVILS and any number of illegal substances.

 

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Addendum- The director of THE WICKER MAN actually went on to direct two more movies. And the lead actors name was Edward Woodward, I apologize for not including that I'm posting with my phone which is never easy. Again, it was an exceptional performance, I cannot imagine anyone else in the lead role.

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I JIUST WATCHED MIRACLE AT MORGAN CREEK(1944) ON LINE.  A WONDERFUL UNDERRATED PRESTON STURGIS FILM THAT TCM HAS NEVER SHOWN.  WHAT A SHAME.

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BY THE WAY TO THE POSTER "DUCK SOUP" IS A PARAMOUNT MARX BROTHERS FILM.  IT IS THEIR BEST FILM.  THEY WERE AT THEIR BEST AT PARAMOUNT. THEIR MGM FILMS ARE SUB PAR TO PARAMOUNT DUE TO THE FACT OF THE CORNY ROMANTIC SUB PLOTS. BY THE WAY, TELL EDDIE MUELER THAT THERE WERE FOUR MARX BROTHERS NOT THREE AS THEY STATE IN THEIR WINE COMMERCIALS. I AM SO SURPRISED THAT THE TCM VIEWERS DO NOT MUCH ABOUT CLASSIC PARAMOUNT STARS OR FILMS.

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Island of Doomed Men (1940) - Entertaining B thriller from Columbia Pictures and director Charles Barton. G-man Mark Sheldon (Robert Wilcox) is sent on an undercover assignment to learn what's happening on a tropical island owned by Stephen Danel (Peter Lorre). Mark learns that while Danel claims to be offering work opportunities to parolees, he's actually forcing the men into slave labor mining for diamonds. They are kept in prison work gang conditions, and the cruel overseer Capt. Cort (Charles Middleton) isn't above doling out lashings of the whip. Mark tries to figure out a way to stop it all, and the answer may lie with Danel's unhappy wife Lorraine (Rochelle Hudson). Also featuring George E. Stone, Don Beddoe, Kenneth MacDonald, Stanley Brown, Earl Gunn, and Bruce Bennett.

I'm not familiar with Wilcox, and he's not memorable here, either. Hudson is beautiful as the tormented wife. Lorre is creepy, languidly menacing, and hysterically afraid of small monkeys. I liked seeing Charles "Ming the Merciless" Middleton in a bigger role than most of his walk-on bits. This is few people's idea of high art, but it is amusing trash.  (7/10)

Source: YouTube. The print is very nice.

island-of-doomed-men-movie-poster.jpg

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Johnny Apollo (1940) - Decent crime drama from 20th Century Fox and director Henry Hathaway. Stockbroker Robert Cain (Edward Arnold) is found guilty of insider trading and sentenced to prison. His spoiled college student son Robert Cain Junior (Tyrone Power) discovers that not only does he not have any money, but that his former social set will have nothing to do with him. He also can't get a job because of his name. So he invents the identity of "Johnny Apollo", and sets out to find a lawyer who will get his father acquitted. This brings "Johnny" into contact with gangster Mickey Dwyer (Lloyd Nolan), and nightclub singer Lucky Dubarry (Dorothy Lamour). Soon enough, Johnny is making his own name in the criminal underworld. Also featuring Charley Grapewin, Lionel Atwill, Marc Lawrence, Jonathan Hale, Russell Hicks, Charles Lane, Fuzzy Knight, John Hamilton, Selmer Jackson, Louis Jean Heydt, Milburn Stone, and Anthony Caruso in his debut.

Power is good as the callow youth who is forced into a life of crime. Arnold is also good as a decent man who made bad decisions and is willing to take responsibility for them. Lamour is lovely, and gets to worry over Power. Grapewin has a showy role as drunken attorney of ill repute. The ending was a bit too tidy and sweet for my tastes, but the movie isn't bad.   (7/10)

Source: YouTube.

1648819_original.jpg 

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I was inspired by THE WICKER MAN to take on another strange 1970s film, which I also had never seen before and which I read shared a double bill with it: DONT LOOK NOW w/ Julie Christie and Donald Southerland. 

What a ******** waste of time. 

(i'm sure I might catch hell for saying that, but seriously, I want that hour and 46 minutes back. And my time is not even that valuable.)

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And Soon the Darkness (1970):  The tagline on the posters for this British thriller is "Remember the way Hitchcock kept you on the edge of your seat..?"  I couldn't pass that up, and guess what..this one lives up to the promo, with some stylish direction and camera work that would make Sir Alfred proud.  The film, shot in real time, does begin slowly, letting us get familiar with two young English women bicycling around France on their vacation.  Pamela Franklin is the more sensible of the two, but her friend Michele Dotrice is growing tired of the backroads, and is more interested in spotting French men, one of whom (Sandor Eles) seems to follow them everywhere on his motor scooter. When Dotrice complains she's tired and wants to take a break near a wooded area, the two quarrel, and Franklin pedals on alone.  She stops at a cafe (I use the term loosely..it's an old building with a wobbly table and one chair in front), and here we realize we are going to be put in Franklin's shoes--most of the people she will encounter are speaking French..there is no translation..we are as clueless regarding the situation as she is.  She goes back to find her friend..but she isn't there..nothing is there except her camera.  Alone, she goes back to try to find help, but every single person she encounters is suspicious.  The cafe' owner and her husband - always yelling, burning things, frightened of the police; an English school teacher who tells her of an unsolved murder here years before, but coldly claims 'women alone are asking for trouble'; an old deaf man who stands alone in the fields and stares a lot; the policeman who seems far too nonchelant and calm about her predicament; and of course, Eles.  Eles does speak English, and tells her he is a detective from Paris, who comes back regularly trying to solve the old murder.  He convinces her to go into the woods with him to search and has her trust temporarily..but he purposely exposes the film in the camera.  Whose picture is in there? Why, we all know Dotrice took his picture at a cafe earlier.  With all the confusion and inability to communicate, Franklin doesn't know who to trust..and neither does the viewer.  The tension grows to a palpable level when Franklin flees from Eles in an area of rusted-out cars and delapidated old trailers (this is not tourist-postcard France..) and peaks at a scene that rivals Mrs. Bates spinning around in her chair.  The performances, especially Franklin's, are all top notch, and most importantly..you just can't stop watching this 'day in the countryside'.  source: terrarium                                                         Image result for and soon the darkness 1970                                                       

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Laddie (1940) - Wholesome family fare from RKO and director Jack Hively. When fancy British girl Pamela Pryor (Virginia Gilmore) and her family move in next to American farmer Laddie Stanton (Tim Holt) and his large family, the two fall in love. However, her disapproving father Charles (Miles Mander) forbids Pamela from marrying a lowly farmer, so Laddie's precocious little sister Sister (Joan Carroll) sets out to be matchmaker. Also featuring Spring Byington, Robert Barrat, Esther Dale, Sammy McKim, Joan Leslie, Martha O'Driscoll, Rand Brooks, Mary Forbes, and Peter Cushing.

This is the kind of sweet-natured family schmaltz that irritates me to no end. The lead kid, Joan Carroll, isn't "cute" or "funny" or "adorable", but rather obnoxious and a bad actress. Holt and Gilmore are pretty enough performers but they have the combined charisma of a thing that lacks charisma. Mander is a real SOB, but you know by the type of movie this is that he won't ever get the boot in the teeth he deserves. Joan Leslie, before she was Joan Leslie, doesn't have much to do as another sister to Holt. I watched this for Peter Cushing, who shows up in the last 8 minutes or so, looks sickly, and then goes to bed. You and me both, brother.   (4/10)

Source: YouTube.

78efbdb0bef01edda697e55b7a9364b3--spring

 

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26 minutes ago, shutoo said:

And Soon the Darkness (1970):  The tagline on the posters for this British thriller is "Remember the way Hitchcock kept you on the edge of your seat..?"  I couldn't pass that up, and guess what..this one lives up to the promo, with some stylish direction and camera work that would make Sir Alfred proud.  The film, shot in real time, does begin slowly, letting us get familiar with two young English women bicycling around France on their vacation.  Pamela Franklin is the more sensible of the two, but her friend Michele Dotrice is growing tired of the backroads, and is more interested in spotting French men, one of whom (Sandor Eles) seems to follow them everywhere on his motor scooter. When Dotrice complains she's tired and wants to take a break near a wooded area, the two quarrel, and Franklin pedals on alone.  She stops at a cafe (I use the term loosely..it's an old building with a wobbly table and one chair in front), and here we realize we are going to be put in Franklin's shoes--most of the people she will encounter are speaking French..there is no translation..we are as clueless regarding the situation as she is.  She goes back to find her friend..but she isn't there..nothing is there except her camera.  Alone, she goes back to try to find help, but every single person she encounters is suspicious.  The cafe' owner and her husband - always yelling, burning things, frightened of the police; an English school teacher who tells her of an unsolved murder here years before, but coldly claims 'women alone are asking for trouble'; an old deaf man who stands alone in the fields and stares a lot; the policeman who seems far too nonchelant and calm about her predicament; and of course, Eles.  Eles does speak English, and tells her he is a detective from Paris, who comes back regularly trying to solve the old murder.  He convinces her to go into the woods with him to search and has her trust temporarily..but he purposely exposes the film in the camera.  Whose picture is in there? Why, we all know Dotrice took his picture at a cafe earlier.  With all the confusion and inability to communicate, Franklin doesn't know who to trust..and neither does the viewer.  The tension grows to a palpable level when Franklin flees from Eles in an area of rusted-out cars and delapidated old trailers (this is not tourist-postcard France..) and peaks at a scene that rivals Mrs. Bates spinning around in her chair.  The performances, especially Franklin's, are all top notch, and most importantly..you just can't stop watching this 'day in the countryside'.  source: terrarium                                                         Image result for and soon the darkness 1970                                                       

 i saw this one too and was quite scared with edge of your seat suspense.  Pamela Franklin is always good to watch.  She was great in The Innocents with Deborah Kerr and others.

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Night Train to Munich (1940) - British-American co-production spy thriller from 20th Century Fox and director Carol Reed. After the outbreak of WW2, Nazi Germany is intent on getting their hands on scientist Axel Bomasch (James Harcourt), who has knowledge valuable to both sides in the war. Dr. Bomasch and his daughter Anna (Margaret Lockwood) try to make their way to England, while Gestapo agent Karl Marsen (Paul Henreid) tries to catch them. The Bomasch's find assistance from British agent Dickie Randall (Rex Harrison), who has gone undercover as a German army officer. All parties eventually find their way onto the title conveyance, where a match of wits takes place. Also featuring Felix Aylmer, Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne, Wyndham Goldie, Roland Culver, and Hugh Griffith in his debut.

This is an entertaining spy thriller, with Harrison in top form as the quick-thinking Randall. Henreid, here credited with his given name of Paul von Hernreid, is also excellent as the equally clever Marsen. While there are many moments of suspense throughout, the audience knows that Harrison will get through it all, so there's a lightness to the material that may strike some the wrong way. I liked it, though. The movie was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Story.   (7/10)

Source: YouTube, a really awful looking print. This is another case of a movie with a Criterion disc release that is not available on FilmStruck, no doubt due to a limited rights deals with Fox.

A truly terrible poster.

hqdefault.jpg

 

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15 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

Night Train to Munich (1940) -

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Lawrence, it's difficult for me to view this film without thinking of Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes. Sidney Gilliat (who later wrote and directed State Secret in 1950, a similar European-set thriller) was also a credited screenwriter on this film. In addition to that, Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne continued in their roles as the comic relief cricket-obsessed Englishmen Charters and Caldicott.

I thought that Paul Henreid was a very good villain in Night Train before Now Voyager and Casablanca would soften his image and turn him into a romantic. By the end of the decade, though, Henreid would effectively (if briefly) return to villainy once again in Paramount's Rope of Sand (1949), opposing Burt Lancaster in a hunt for diamonds.

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4 minutes ago, TomJH said:

I thought that Paul Henreid was a very good villain in Night Train before Now Voyager and Casablanca would soften his image and turn him into a romantic. By the end of the decade, though, Henreid would effectively (if briefly) return to villainy once again in Paramount's Rope of Sand (1949), opposing Burt Lancaster in a hunt for diamonds.

I'm hoping to get a hold of a copy of Rope of Sand before I reach my 1949 stack.

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18 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

I'm hoping to get a hold of a copy of Rope of Sand before I reach my 1949 stack.

This film has quite a cast of scoundrels and potential scoundrels. While he's not pictured here, Peter Lorre's in it, too, almost a Casablanca cast reunion.

ae93c2d0a40ab693356e6828f7027f4b.jpg

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I saw the Avenging Rider earlier today. A B western from RKO about two cowboys who get framed for murder and robbery and set out to find the real robbers. It was a bit cheesy with the sidekick singing and many slapstick gags but at 55 minutes it isn't difficult to get through. I would rate it 5/10.

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14 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

So what with it being Friday the 13th and the world being SO hopelessly messed up,

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Quote

I just felt a strong craving this afternoon to watch something NUTS from the 70s.

There were so many movies from the 70's I was Too Young To See, even when I was alive to remember them being in other theaters, I've now become hooked on getting one recommended daily allotment of Gritty 70's Golden Age in any weekend blitz of old movie rentals I take out.  Just got through Godfather II on Netflix, and took out Network (yes, another movie I only know from random bits without the whole) from the library.

(I only had one semester in NYU during the early Koch-era '82-'83 , and sentimentally consider the days of gritty pre-Giuliani NYC as "my" past, even though I was never there for the real-life '71-'77 fun as depicted in the Martin Scorsese and Sidney Lumet movies.)

Having run out of Oscar movies, and into mass fare, I'm now starting to eye those copies of The Warriors and Carrie that have surfaced on HuluPlus...Amazing how many movies you can quote that you've never actually seen.

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North West Mounted Police (1940) - Silly Technicolor western adventure from Paramount Pictures and director Cecil B. DeMille. It's 1885, and the Metis (half-breed) people of western Canada are planning a rebellion, led by bad guys Corbeau (George Bancroft), Riel (Francis McDonald), and Duroc (Akim Tamiroff). Out to stop them are the stalwart men of the North West Mounted Police, led by the straight-backed Sgt. Jim Brett (Preston Foster). He bristles when he's forced to accept help from Texas Ranger Dusty Rivers (Gary Cooper), who has come north in search of a fugitive murderer. Both Brett and Rivers chase after angelic nurse April Logan (Madeleine Carroll). Meanwhile, young Mountie rake Ronnie Logan (Robert Preston) is conducting an illicit affair with half-breed wildcat Louvette (Paulette Goddard). Also featuring Lynne Overman, Lon Chaney Jr., Walter Hampden, Montagu Love, George E. Stone, Regis Toomey, Richard Denning, Ralph Byrd, Rod Cameron, Anthony Caruso, Nestor Paiva, and Robert Ryan.

This is a big, loud mix of the dumb and the entertaining. It's bad but never boring, with outrageous characters sporting silly names ("Dusty Rivers"? Really?!?), tonally awkward scenes of slapstick comedy followed by people being shot in the head, and laughably misplaced romance. The gorgeous "Canadian" scenery was achieved primarily on LA soundstages, and the filmmakers never did make it to Canada, although there's some legitimate outdoor scenes shot in California state parks. However silly it all is, DeMille knew his formula well, as this ended up being Paramount's biggest hit of the year, as well as earning Oscar nominations for Best Score, Best Sound, Best Color Art Direction, and Best Color Cinematography, as well as winning for Best Editing. My rating reflects how much I enjoyed the movie, rather than the film's objective quality.   (7/10)

Source: YouTube. A rather terrible copy. Try seeking this one out elsewhere, as a better quality picture will help immensely.

north-west-mounted-police-movie-poster-m

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8 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

North West Mounted Police (1940)

north-west-mounted-police-movie-poster-m

For some strange reason, North West Mounted Police is the only one of De Mille's 12 talkie spectacles that has never received either a video or DVD home release in North America (there are Region 2 DVDs available in Europe). There are, however, copies of it available on the internet, some of them of very good quality. I got a DVD copy of it from, I believe, an Australian source, and it's quite gorgeous in quality.

This is a film that I grew up with watching it repeatedly on TV, so I have strong feelings of nostalgia regarding it. Having said that, as you indicated, Lawrence, the film is, in many ways, supremely silly (it has some of the worst dialogue of any De Mille film, and that's really saying something). The film is also surprisingly sparse in action scenes.

However, the Technicolor is rich and the cast of stars big, even if everyone is playing a stereotype. For my money the two scene stealers in the film are Robert Preston and, particularly, Paulette Goddard as a Mountie and half breed having a not-so-secretive affair. "You're the sweetest poison that ever got in a man's blood," Preston tells her at one point. Goddard is colourful and cheeky in her role, even if the characterization is not be taken seriously.

MV5BZjkxNTcwODItZTUzNy00Yzc1LTkyMjgtZGNk

But speaking of some of the dialogue hum dingers to be found in this film, here are a few lines that got the approval of De Mille. At one point Madeleine Carroll tells Texas Ranger Dusty Rivers (Gary Cooper), "Oh, Dusty, you're an angel in leather," to which the aw shucks modest Rivers responds, "I'd look kinda funny in leather wings."

But my favourite I-can't-believe-I-heard-what-I-just-heard line comes from a scenery chewing Akim Tamiroff as a mortally wounded half breed about to croak when he says, "The Big Trapper got me by the neck."

Bottom line: even though NWMP has some howler moments in it it is still an entertaining film. But poor Louis Riel, the real life historical leader who led a rebellion against the Canadian government, eventually being controversially hanged because of it. Not so much because he was hanged but that he has to have this as his film legacy.

 

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I'm surprised no one has taken me to task yet for my dismissal of DONT LOOK NOW (1973)- in the meantime, I have taken immense solace from reading one star reviews of the Film on IMDb. 

It's been along time since I've had such a visceral reaction to a film.

seriously, as much as I respect the work of artists, even works I don't particularly care for, I would have a very hard time not pouring a Tahitian Treat all over the negative of this thing were I left in a room alone with it.

I don't think I can say anything else about it without using really foul language.

 

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Behind the Makeup (1930)

Early Paramount talkie about Hap Brown, a vaudeville clown with a bicycle act (Hal Skelly), who's happy to get by, but combines forces with Gardoni, a down-and-out European clown (William Powell). The complex Gardoni has aspirations towards being an "artiste" while the simple minded, easy going Hap insists ya gotta give 'em hokum in the small town vaudeville circuit. 

BehindTheMakeup2-150x150.png

Gardoni will eventually reluctantly agree to the hokum, however, and become a big hit, with Hap his second banana. In addition to stealing the headlines Gardoni will also steal Hap's girl (waitress Fay Wray) whom he will marry without so much as a "Sorry about that" to poor Hap. Hap is hurt for about ten seconds but, being an easy going slob, quickly forgives both Gardoni and his girl. But Gardoni will soon become involved with a sleek, high society matron (Kay Francis) and mounting gambling debts.

This is a middling drama, most interesting to modern viewers due to William Powell's supporting portrayal. He's curly haired and adopts a fake Italian accent but makes his high strung, mercurial character interesting. In spite of taking advantage of Hap, the film's protagonist, at times, he's not really a bad guy (though Powell had played his share of villains during the silents). In the final analysis, while he hurts others around him it's not by design but as a side product of his own self absorbed behaviour. Powell's Gardoni is, in fact, very much his own worst enemy.

The little remembered Hal Skelly plays the good natured, sad clown in this film, ready to lend a helping hand to others, if he can (in contrast to Gardoni). He is, to be honest, a bit of a sap, even if he is a nice guy. Skelly was a show biz trouper, having worked in the circus and minstrel shows before having a hit on Broadway (with Barbara Stanwyck) called Burlesque. Skelly would give a noteworthy performance when that hit was translated to film in 1929's The Dance of Life, an interesting film that can be found on You Tube today. It was the highlight of Skelly's brief film career.

But just as Gardoni steals Hap's girl from him in Behind the Makeup, so, too, Willliam Powell steals the film from Hal Skelly. Hap's character is, in the final analysis, not a particularly interesting one, while Gardoni perhaps had the makings of being the central character (if not a particularly admirable one) of a better film.

Some film buffs will, of course, be interested in seeing Powell share scenes with the sophisticated Kay Francis, foreshadowing their near future screen collaborations in a couple of other films, most noticeably One Way Passage at Warner Brothers.

Sometimes art can eerily anticipate real life. Just as Gardoni steals the limelight from Hap in Behind the Makeup, William Powell would soon leave Paramount for Warner Brothers, and from there travel to MGM where he would find film immortality in film comedy and the arms of Myrna Loy. Meanwhile Hal Skelly would make a small handful of films before being killed, while searching for a runaway dog, when the vehicle he was in was struck by a train. Skelly died in 1934, the same year that Powell made The Thin Man.

BehindTheMakeup23-650x508.png

2.5 out of 4

 

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The Face Behind the Mask (1941) - Excellent B movie crime drama, from Columbia Pictures and director Robert Florey. Peter Lorre stars as Janos Szabo, a sweetly innocent immigrant fresh off the boat in NYC. On his first night in his new country, his hotel catches fire, and Janos is horribly burned, leaving his face a scarred wreck so disgusting that no one will hire him. Desperate, Janos meets small-time hood Dinky (George E. Stone), and the two embark on a successful life of crime. Janos starts to second-guess his lifestyle after he meets nice blind girl Helen (Evelyn Keyes). Also featuring Don Beddoe, James Seay. John Tyrrell, Cy Schindell, Stanley Brown, and Frank Reicher.

Lorre is very good as the sympathetic Janos. His later scenes, during which he is supposed to be wearing a thin latex mask resembling his old features, are well done, with a minimum of facial expression. Keyes is good as the pure-hearted Helen. Stone has one of his better roles as Dinky, the minor hood who's loyal to Janos above all else.  (7/10)

Source: TCM by way of YouTube.

mask_h4.jpg

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Oh Lord help me, I went out to lunch with my 70-year-old parents today and was telling them all about THE WICKER MAN and was asking them questions about the Hebrides islands which they've been to. They really wanted to see the film, so they're sitting down right now watching it. 

WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?!

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2 minutes ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

Oh Lord help me, I went out to lunch with my 70-year-old parents today and was telling them all about THE WICKER MAN and was asking them questions about the Hebrides islands which they've been to. They really wanted to see the film, so they're sitting down right now watching it. 

WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?!

Naughty girl.....

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8 Million Ways To Die (1986) L.A. Smog Noir

Poster.jpg

"I hate money when its new it cuts your fingers and when it's old it stinks...."

I'd never read any of Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder novels, so I watched this without any pre- conceived ideas. The fact Scudder, a New York City private eye, is uprooted from his native habitat and relocated to The City Of Angels doesn't bother me in the least. Hell, the best Mike Hammer depiction, another quintessential New York P.I. detective, ever made to date had exactly the same treatment. Kiss Me Deadly (1955) was shot in and around L.A.'s old Bunker Hill neighborhood and is a bonafide classic Film Noir. Of course, 8 Million Ways To Die isn't in the same league, but it gets enough acceptable Noir stylistics right and has a neat "Gaudi Style" townhouse set piece, and a great final denouement on a private replica of Angels Flight to make it respectable enough.

I'd never seen the film on it's initial release so here it is now 32 years after the fact. The film, I've read was a flop, and various reasons are given. It was directed by the great Hal Ashby more known for topical dramas and quirky comedies (Harold and Maude (1971), The Last Detail (1973), Coming Home (1978) and Being There (1979) and not for gritty crime films. Though I've read that he was going through the same problems with alcoholism as the main character in the film. Which perhaps was what attracted him to the project in the first place. But all that is pure speculation. The studio took control of the film away from him and had it edited their way.

The adaptation for the screen of Block's novel was also troubled. The first screen treatment was by Oliver Stone, which was then passed to R. Lance Hill, (as David Lee Henry), and finally given to Robert Towne to doctor what he could. Stone wanted to get his name off the credits. The dialog shows this "too many cooks syndrome," there are some great scenes and lines in some sequences and there are some chuckle inducing clunkers in others.


The film stars Jeff Bridges (The Last Picture Show (1971), Fat City (1972), Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), Cutter's Way (1981), The Big Lebowski (1998), Hell or High Water (2016)) as Matthew "Matt" Scudder, Rosanna Arquette (Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), After Hours (1985), The Wrong Man (1993), Pulp Fiction (1994)) as Sarah, Alexandra Paul (Baywatch TV Series (1989–2001)) as Sunny, Randy Brooks (Reservoir Dogs (1992)) as Willie "Chance" Walker, Andy García (The Untouchables (1987)) as Angel Maldonado, and Tommy Lister (Jackie Brown (1997)), as Nose Guard.


The film opens with a title sequence that features a circular flyover of 1985 Los Angeles, from the skyscraper tombstones that mark the grave site of Bunker Hill to the massive convoluted concrete freeway system to a zoom on a single police car cruising a traffic lane. We hear a conversation in Voice Over.


Joe Durkin: The murder rate used to be a thousand a year. Three a day, and that was high. Now it's five. Higher in the summer. Fourteen two Fridays ago. We get the death penalty six, seven times a day, only it's not for murderers, it's for ordinary citizens.

Matthew 'Matt' Scudder: Yeah, there are 8 million stories in the naked city. Remember that old TV show? What we have in this town is eight million ways to die.

Jeff Bridges is believable as Scudder, Randy Brooks nails Chance, Alexandra Paul believe it or not outshines Rosanna Arquette, but her career in films never took off, Arquette's greatest Noir turn is as Femme Fatale Missy Mills in the excellent but little seen The Wrong Man (1993)

Andy Garcia is a bit over the top as Angel, but that is a minor quibble.

It's all speculation, but it is believed that had Ashby not been dismissed from the project he would massaged the final film differently, would have used different takes and allocated time for more character development. As it is sequences like the confrontation with the snow cones and at the warehouse seem to drag on hysterically way too long. An uneven film with some great sequences, definitely worth a look see. 7/10

Full review with screencaps here in Film Noir/Gangster pages.

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I Wanted Wings (1941) - Army air corps recruitment film from Paramount Pictures and director Mitchell Leisen. The story follows three cadets, former stockbroker Jeff (Ray Milland), insecure mechanic Al (William Holden), and amiable lunkhead Tom (Wayne Morris), as they go through flight training under the tutelage of tough instructor Captain Mercer (Brian Donlevy). The boys also find time for romance with photographer Carolyn (Constance Moore) and gold-digging nightclub singer Sally (Veronica Lake). Also featuring Harry Davenport, Phil Brown, Edward Fielding, Willard Robertson, Hobart Cavanaugh, Charles Drake, Alan Hale Jr., Craig Stevens, and Hedda Hopper.

This movie is an overlong, melodramatic mess, but I liked it anyway. The first half is not unlike many pre-WW2 military boot-camp movies, where guys bond, fight over a girl or two, and slowly reveal why they joined the service, since in those pre-war days, they all had to have some reason, be it scandalous or life re-invention. Just as things were beginning to grow stale, at around the midway point of the movie Veronica Lake shows up as a super-sexy manipulator, and things get interesting again. She looks amazing and her character is irredeemable. According to the trivia I read, this is the film where she started getting a bad work reputation, but knowing that just adds to her performance. Where it all leads is ridiculous, but entertaining, although like so many studio-era films, it's all wrapped up too nice and neat at the end. The movie features some terrific aerial footage and stunt flying, but ironically it would win the Oscar for Best Special Effects, which are arguably the worst aspect of the film.   (7/10)

Source: YouTube.

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