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I Just Watched...

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Last night I watched the rarity WEST OF BROADWAY '31 starring John Gilbert & Lois Moran. I recorded this "unknown" just for the opportunity to see El Brendel in a larger role-he even got billing over the leading lady!

I have no love for John Gilbert-never understood why Garbo demanded him in her films- and he is absolutely loathsome in this movie.

The plot is preposterous- Gilbert, a wealthy guy during the depression, treats everyone like **** (I'll just type it in asterisks for you, Otto) because his fiancé jilted him when he returned from serving in the war. El Brendel plays his sidekick who loyally stays by him throughout, playing his usual good natured Swedish foil as comic relief.

Gilbert is tricked into a blind date with Lois Moran and of course while out, bumps into his old gf with her new guy. (apparently there's only 2 nightclubs in all of NYC)

Gilbert gets drunk and marries Moran trying to spite the old gf. Moran goes along with it not because she's a gold digger, but more from genuine feeling of sympathy for Gilbert-she's had her share of suffering. The ending is predictable, although with Gilbert being so nasty, sometimes you just want Moran, El Brendel, ANYone to clock him.

The entire story is told in a short running time of about 73 minutes and anytime Lois Moran is in the scene, you can't take your eyes off her-she's adorable! (wears great clothing too) She plays a Stanwyck/Blondell type of flapper with a heart of gold and has a vibrant, contemporary beauty like Paulette Goddard. I do not know why she didn't become a bigger star, or a star at all, really.

 

 

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13 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

Don't Bet On Blondes (1935) - Romantic comedy from Warner Brothers and director Robert Florey. Famed New York bookie "Odds" Owen (Warren William) decides to get out of the gambling racket and into the insurance business, offering policies for all sorts of unusual things, and using his network of underworld characters to make things profitable. His successful scheme is going great until he agrees to help an old Confederate sympathizer (Guy Kibbee) ensure that his actress daughter Marilyn (Claire Dodd) doesn't marry. Also featuring Errol Flynn, William Gargan, Hobart Cavanaugh, Vince Barnett, Clay Clement, Mary Treen, Herman Bing, Jack Pennick, Paul Fix, Joseph Crehan, and Marc Lawrence.

This is a minor B picture, but I thought it was funny, especially the large supporting cast of character mugs. William is dependably enjoyable in this kind of Runyon-esque role, Kibbee is a hoot (with a good Southern accent!), and Flynn has a brief bit as one of Marilyn's potential suitors (the way he's dealt with is one of the movie's highlights).   (7/10)

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Brief as his screen minutes are as a bit player here, Flynn's charm still shines through in this film, particularly in his last scene. Still, no one would ever guess (least of all Flynn) that Captain Blood and international stardom were right around the corner for him with his very next role. Jack Warner took a huge gamble on hiring this unknown but, boy, did it ever pay off.

Years later Flynn wrote that there were times when the pressure of fame and fortune and nasty headlines and lawyers coming after him were such that he wished he could have disappeared back into obscurity once again. Still, before his self destructiveness gradually changed everything in his life, looks, personality, relationships, and career, this man lived the good life for years as a major Hollywood star (and he left some good films and performances behind, as well).

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1 hour ago, TikiSoo said:

Last night I watched the rarity WEST OF BROADWAY '31 starring John Gilbert & Lois Moran. I recorded this "unknown" just for the opportunity to see El Brendel in a larger role-he even got billing over the leading lady!

I have no love for John Gilbert-never understood why Garbo demanded him in her films- and he is absolutely loathsome in this movie.

 

 

Tiki, if you are not a Gilbert fan, I have to ask if you have seen him in DOWNSTAIRS (1933), which TCM occasionally shows. He plays the newly hired chauffeur to a wealthy family who uses his charm and looks to manipulate members of the household, servants as well as the owners, even resorting to blackmail. He is a true scoundrel in this film and not in a likable way. You want to see him get it, but the film has an ending you might not see coming.

Gilbert's career was floundering and he wanted to take a bold step by playing a cad, and he truly is convincing in the part. Assuming you have yet to see this film, I suggest you might give Gilbert a look in DOWNSTAIRS the next time TCM shows it. It may not change your overall view of him but you may have an appreciation for this one performance, at least.

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8 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

Jan. 3

Yankee Doodle Dandy (Warner Bros., 1942)
 the sense of, "Oh, wow, the same guy wrote ALL those songs!" while watching.

And Cagney's dancing! I'm no scholar of dancing styles and prowess, so I don't really know where Cagney rates alongside an Astaire or Kelly. I do know all that crazy, exuberant leg-flailing and those gooney-bird steps tend to make my jaw drop. He certainly had a lot of energy, if nothing else.

I've seen a brief clip of a movie CAGNEY made in the early nineteen thirties, he is in a sailor suit dancing with an Asian lady on top of a bar and his precision footwork is on point.

There is an "Irish jig" quality to his dancing that I like very much.

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12 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

Spitfire (1934) - Terrible hillbilly melodrama from RKO and director John Cromwell.  one of the worst Hollywood movies from the era that I've seen.   (4/10)

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I adore this movie with every fiber of my being.

"She jess po lil ole whaht traish, sames me."

It's like watching THE QUEEN MUM as NELL.

(THAT POSTER is legit great tho)

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1 hour ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

I've seen a brief clip of a movie CAGNEY made in the early nineteen thirties, he is in a sailor suit dancing with an Asian lady on top of a bar and his precision footwork is on point.

There is an "Irish jig" quality to his dancing that I like very much.

I think this scene is in Footlight Parade.

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15 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

Too many early thirties films are static, turgid gabfests, whereas Mamoulian takes care to frame beautiful compositions with striking lighting and visual splendor.

Have you seen Mamoulian's Applause (1929)? Sound film was barely standing upright, but he and his cinematographer made the camera (and the soundtrack) do all sorts of innovative things.

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Just now, Polly of the Precodes said:

Have you seen Mamoulian's Applause (1929)? Sound film was barely standing upright, but he and his cinematographer made the camera (and the soundtrack) do all sorts of innovative things.

Yes, I liked that one quite a bit. Lots of innovative overhead shots, among other set-ups.

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Enter Madame! (1935) - Romantic comedy from Paramount Pictures and director Elliott Nugent. International opera star Lisa Della Robbia (Elissa Landi) impulsively marries ardent fan Gerald Fitzgerald (Cary Grant), but their whirlwind romance is quickly strained by the demands of her work schedule. Also featuring Lynne Overman, Sharon Lynn, Michelette Burani, Frank Albertson, Cecilia Parker, Paul Porcasi, and Ann Sheridan.

The screenplay lacks charm and wit, and the performances are perfunctory. Opera fans may enjoy Landi's several musical numbers, but I wasn't impressed. Grant tries but doesn't have much to work with. Thankfully, better projects were around the corner.   (5/10)

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17 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

 Too many early thirties films are static, turgid gabfests, whereas Mamoulian takes care to frame beautiful compositions with striking lighting and visual splendor.

 

 

 

1 hour ago, Polly of the Precodes said:

Have you seen Mamoulian's Applause (1929)? Sound film was barely standing upright, but he and his cinematographer made the camera (and the soundtrack) do all sorts of innovative things.

And think too, of the innovations, his melding of sound and visuals, that Mamoulian brought to the musical with LOVE ME TONIGHT in 1932. This Lubitsch inspired effort out-Lubitshed Lubitsch.

 

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It's a Small World (1935) - Routine rom-com from Fox and director Irving Cummings. Sophisticated Jane Dale (Wendy Barrie) gets into a fender-bender with lawyer Bill Shevlin (Spencer Tracy) in a small country town, and the two are forced to stay for a few days, during which they grow close. Also featuring Raymond Walburn, Virginia Sale, Astrid Allwyn, Irving Bacon, Dick Foran, and Skippy as "Sookie". 

Tracy is charming and funny, and Barrie isn't bad in her American film debut, but the material is old-hat, even for its day. I found it mildly entertaining, but nothing that I need to revisit.   (6/10)

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4 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

It's a Small World (1935) - Routine rom-com from Fox and director Irving Cummings. Sophisticated Jane Dale (Wendy Barrie) gets into a fender-bender with lawyer Bill Shevlin (Spencer Tracy) in a small country town, and the two are forced to stay for a few days, during which they grow close. Also featuring Raymond Walburn, Virginia Sale, Astrid Allwyn, Irving Bacon, Dick Foran, and Skippy as "Sookie". 

Tracy is charming and funny, and Barrie isn't bad in her American film debut, but the material is old-hat, even for its day. I found it mildly entertaining, but nothing that I need to revisit.   (6/10)

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I still say Wendy Barrie was actually Wayne Morris in drag.

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Kind Lady (1935) - Thriller from MGM and director George B. Seitz. A generous, wealthy woman (Aline MacMahon) is taken advantage of by an impoverished artist (Basil Rathbone) and his gang of cohorts. Also featuring Frank Albertson, Dudley Digges, Mary Carlisle, Doris Lloyd, Murray Kinnell, and Donald Meek.

I watched the 1951 remake, starring Ethel Barrymore and Maurice Evans, sometime last year, and this version is much the same. MacMahon is an actress of this period that I like quite a bit, and she brings something different to the part than Barrymore did in the later film. Barrymore's age was seen as a factor in the villains' exploitation of her, while in this earlier version it's more a matter of MacMahon's fragile emotional state. Rathbone is good, as usual, as the cunning, slightly conflicted rogue.   (7/10)

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Just saw, this afternoon, on the big screen (yes ! in an actual  movie theatre) a new film called "Ben is Back". It's about a family about to celebrate Christmas eve when their son (Lucas Hedges) shows up unexpectedly. He's the "Ben" of the title, and the reason his surprise return for Christmas causes consternation is because he's a drug addict, and it's clear from the family's reaction (mother, sister, step-father and two young step-siblings) that his addiction issues have caused them much grief in the past.

I wont' go into detail on the story, except to say that the mother (a bravura performance by Julia Roberts) and Ben end up spending the entire night of Christmas Eve on a strange, disturbing, and often frightening journey, one that reveals many troubling incidents and people from Ben's past. The film looks unflinchingly at the pain that users cause the people they love most; one of the most interesting aspects of the story is the complex of emotions such a person can elicit in those who love them. You can see Holly, Ben's mother, experiencing a range of feelings that includes love, anger, distrust, fear, sadness, frustration, fury, disgust, and ultimately love again. 

This is not an easy film to watch, but it's a fascinating and powerful one. I'd barely heard of it before my friend suggested we see it this afternoon, so did not know what to expect. Sometimes this is the best way to go into a movie; I found Ben is Back to be an intense,  moving, completely engaging story, and I'm very glad I saw it.

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22 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

but the film is hampered by a rushed telling of the tale

To be fair, any retelling of a Tolstoy novel is going to be rushed compared to the book.

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On 1/3/2019 at 7:58 PM, LawrenceA said:

Bad southern accents are a pet peeve of mine, and few are as bad as her's here.

Worse than Bette Davis' in Cabin in the Cotton?

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The Last Days of Pompeii (1935) - Costume epic from RKO and filmmakers Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack. Goodhearted Pompeiian blacksmith Marcus (Preston Foster) becomes a ruthless gladiator in the arena after a tragedy befalls him. He later adopts young boy Flavius, has encounters with Pontius Pilate (Basil Rathbone) and Jesus, and more, before everything gets blown to Hell. Also featuring Alan Hale, Louis Calhern, John Wood, David Holt, Dorothy Wilson, Frank Conroy, Murray Kinnell, Edward Van Sloan, Zeffie Tilbury, Henry Kolker, Jason Robards Sr., and Ward Bond as Murmex of Carthage.

The makers of King Kong try to emulate Cecil B. De Mille with some success. The story stretches credulity, and the historical timeline is off, but there are impressive sets and costumes, some nicely-executed action scenes, and of course the big disaster finale. It's corny but fun.  (7/10)

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1 hour ago, LawrenceA said:

The Last Days of Pompeii (1935) - Costume epic from RKO and filmmakers Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack. Goodhearted Pompeiian blacksmith Marcus (Preston Foster) becomes a ruthless gladiator in the arena after a tragedy befalls him. He later adopts young boy Flavius, has encounters with Pontius Pilate (Basil Rathbone) and Jesus, and more, before everything gets blown to Hell. Also featuring Alan Hale, Louis Calhern, John Wood, David Holt, Dorothy Wilson, Frank Conroy, Murray Kinnell, Edward Van Sloan, Zeffie Tilbury, Henry Kolker, Jason Robards Sr., and Ward Bond as Murmex of Carthage.

The makers of King Kong try to emulate Cecil B. De Mille with some success. The story stretches credulity, and the historical timeline is off, but there are impressive sets and costumes, some nicely-executed action scenes, and of course the big disaster finale. It's corny but fun.  (7/10)

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I like the strategic placement of the sword.

This isn't a bad film, although it bears no connection whatsoever to the novel.

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8 hours ago, Polly of the Precodes said:

Have you seen Mamoulian's Applause (1929)? Sound film was barely standing upright, but he and his cinematographer made the camera (and the soundtrack) do all sorts of innovative things.

Applause is one of my favorite early talkies. I love the seedy opening number -- all those large middle aged ladies in their wrinkled tights sets the mood for that provincial theater. The film is particularly well known for being an early example of a sound film shot on location in New York City.

The movie opens with the chorus singing "The Oceana Roll" with Helen Morgan in the lead. I much prefer that tawdry version (a poster on the curtain reads "DEVELOP YOUR BUST") to the (also enjoyable but utterly starched) rendition by Jane Powell and the young men in Two Weeks with Love.

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Beautiful Boy (2018) - True-story drug addiction drama from Amazon Studios and director Felix van Groeningen. Writer David Sheff (Steve Carell) struggles to help his son Nic (Timothee Chalamet) overcome the boy's drug addiction. Also featuring Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Kaitlyn Dever, Andre Royo, Amy Aquino, and Timothy Hutton. 

Based on both David Sheff's book Beautiful Boy and Nic Sheff's Tweak, this is an emotionally devastating look at the effects of drug addiction both on the addict and those who love them. Carell and Chalamet are both very good as people trying to cope with internal forces that neither can quite understand. If you've seen addiction dramas, or dealt with addiction yourself or with friends or family, then much of this will be familiar, but it's presented with artistry, even if it is manipulative at times. There are no easy answers or quick fixes, and as the film states in an epilogue, this is a story statistically more timely than ever.    (7/10)

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January 4

Black Narcissus (General Film Distributors, 1947/Dist. in US by Universal, 1947)
Source: Amazon Prime

Spoiler Alerts!

I did a review of this movie once before, possibly on this thread. This was my second time to watch it, and if it's supposed to have some deep meaning, I don't think I'm grasping it. It is extraordinarily beautiful to look at, winning Oscars for both color cinematography and color art direction. I will say its subject matter for the time of its release was pretty extraordinary. I'm not immediately thinking of any other classic movies about Christian missionaries to show them failing so spectacularly! Certainly not any American film, and indeed, I'm reading on imdb that the scenes of Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron) in her moments of most extreme madness were excised from the original American release to avoid condemnation from the Legion of Decency. Early in the film, Dean predicts they won't make it to the start of the rains, and look what's happening just after they begin to depart! The only thing I can think of remotely close is Katharine Hepburn having to abandon her missionary post in The African Queen, but that's only because the untimely death of her brother and the encroachment of the war. The missionary siblings actually seem to be doing all right before that in the opening scenes.

The historical context of this movie is unknown to me. If anyone knows more than I do about it, I'd be happy for them to enlighten me. I'm uncertain if it's supposed to set in present day. There aren't a lot of context clues. We see ceiling fans in the opening scenes in Calcutta, so we're in the age of electricity, at least in the big cities. I also don't even know the national origin of the convent. All the nuns seem English, but Catholicism hasn't exactly been much of a force in England after Henry VIII. We do learn that Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr) is Irish, so maybe the whole order is Irish. I don't know. I'm not even entirely sure about the nationality of the location, which after a very cursory Internet search, I can't decide if it's Indian or Nepalese. This type of background information isn't necessary to understand or enjoy the story, so I tried not to worry about it.

One of the themes I'm pretty sure I understood is the power an exotic locale can have over the Western mind, as we watch the Himalayan location work its voodoo on all the nuns who've traveled there: Sister Philippa (Flora Robson) foolishly plants pretty flowers instead of food; Sister Honey (Jenny Laird) is overly sensitive and prone to hysterics; and Sister Ruth, well she just seems to have been bat-sh*t crazy even before she left Calcutta. That pale skin and creepy red lower eyelids and twisted smile, she sort of resembles a victim of Joker poison. Sister Clodagh becomes consumed with self-doubt while reminiscing on her past life, which we see a bit of in flashback, to the point of unburdening herself on Dean (David Farrar), the agent to the native general, with candidness probably unbecoming to a nun. Possibly Sister Briony (Judith Furse) is the only one really holding it together, but she possibly lacks the compassion that Sister Honey has in overabundance.

I don't know what to make of the presentation of the natives, which we don't see a ton of. There's some patronizing display of naive simplicity common in movies of the era. Jean Simmons, about 18, I think in her second movie ever after Great Expectations, just exudes sex in a virtually dialogue-free role (with makeup to alter her skin color in a manner that would be frowned upon today - even her casting would raise eyebrows). I must say, as beautiful as she is in this film, I probably wouldn't exhibit the same restraint as Dean if she kept showing up at my door every night! Speaking of exuding sex, to be fair to both genders, I must also note Farrar in his shorty-shorts and shirt usually unbuttoned down to his navel. Was that his uniform? Even around nuns? The only time in the movie he wears a tie and long pants is when he shows up at the Christmas services drunk. And that scene when he responds to Clodagh's distress signal shirtless? I mean, I know it was an emergency, but you couldn't take 15 seconds to throw on a shirt before getting on your little squat pony? It's just an odd look, though it may have been accurate. With that jaunty hat, he strikes me as an extra from Tom Thumb or something. Anyway, after having my little fun with all that, I have to say he gives a very good performance. For most of the movie, he and Clodagh can barely be civil to each other, but we, and they, know there was a potentially inappropriate bond forming between them, given their positions. I like very much the scene at the end where she offers her hand to shake, and instead he holds it tenderly, and for a few seconds she allows it before pulling it away.

Anyway, it all comes down to a nuns-and-death bell tower finale that's every bit as great as the one in Vertigo. Surely, Hitchcock must have seen and remembered this film!

This movie is tied for the highest imdb rating of the movies I've watched so far in 2019 with Fiddler on the Roof: both have an 8.0 rating. I was a bit cheeky in this review, but I do think it's a really great movie.

Total Movies Watched This Year: 4

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The Juggler (1953)

Edward Dmytryk directed this modest but effective Stanley Kramer production about a psychologically scarred German Jew and concentration camp survivor relocating in the newly created Israel of 1949. Having lost his family in the camp he was in he now suffers from post traumatic distress, with a profound paranoia of police of any kind, regarding them all as "Nazis." That includes Israeli police. Once a celebrated juggler and clown entertainer on European stages, he is too proud to admit he has emotional problems as he arrives at an Israeli refugee camp at the film's beginning.

This film does not attempt to explore the bigger issues of the time, such as the formation of the new Israeli state, but remains an intimate study of a war survivor who has difficulty adapting to his new life in a new land. Pursued at one moment by an Israeli police officer, the paranoid man viciously lashes out at him then, after fearing that he has accidentally killed the cop, goes on the lam, wandering along isolated country roads, trying to avoid the police along the way. The police, in response to the officer's severe injury (he's hospitalized), are in a search for him.

Kirk Douglas delivers a sensitive performance as the conflicted former juggler. He shows charm at some moments as, in a defensive measure, he resorts to the persona of the stage performer who once had audiences in the palm of his hand. The charm disappears, however, if his fears are suddenly aroused and he is potentially capable of physically lashing out. Douglas also learned how to juggle for this film and puts on a few impressive displays of his skill.

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Milly Vitale co-stars as a young woman he meets in a kibbutz who feels for him, while Paul Stewart is fine (when isn't this character actor good?) as a compassionate police officer who travels the countryside in pursuit of the juggler.

Shot on location in Israel, the wide open vistas and rolling countryside bring a strong sense of authenticity to the production. A minor drama, its on location photography, combined with Douglas's tortured performance, make it worth viewing.

A minor note: Kaaren Verne appears in a short scene as a woman Douglas mistakenly believes to be his dead wife. The film industry is a ruthless one, as we know. A bit more than a decade earlier this actress was leading lady to Bogart and would be married to Peter Lorre. In The Juggler, though, you will have to be able to recognize her face as she is unbilled in the film, even though she does have some dialogue.

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2.5 out of 4

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Posted (edited)

Wow, sewhite....you certainly wrote a lot for not understanding it. BLACK NARCISSUS is one of my very favorite films. It deals perfectly with personal inner conflict between desire for earthly things versus dedication to spirituality. I will never forget that shot of that colorful jeweled necklace. 

My "watched" movie was PET SEMETARY (1989) We had just visited Fred Gwynne's grave and MrTiki mentioned his two favorite Gwynne roles were MY COUSIN VINNY &  PET SEMETARY. Since I'd never seen Pet Semetery, I got it from the li-berry.

Before watching the movie, I took a look at Maltin's book, he rated it: BOMB. OK, so somewhere between "great" and "bomb" leaves a lot of opinion in between.

The movie starts out OK, with a family moving to a rural country home to raise their 2 kids-a young girl of about 6-7 and a toddler boy. They soon meet their neighbor across the street, perfectly played by Gwynne. I had never seen Gwynne this old in any part and as usual, he was just PERFECT, a truly great actor. Wish I could say as much for the parents, who were cold & bland with trite dialogue. Much discussion centered around the fast, constant traffic of industrial trucks zooming by on the road.

OK, this begs the question: WHY buy a home for a family with small children on a dangerous highway? And if you do, why not E*R*E*C*T a FENCE along the road to protect your family from the rushing trucks? I know why....because Stephen King needs a good story.

So the predictable happens-the family cat gets squished and Gwynne's character brings the Dad (with the stiff cat in a bag) to the sacred burial ground of the title. The soil mysteriously regenerates the dead thing, but it's not the same. Predictably, the toddler gets squished next and Dad resurrects him too. By this point I was so disgusted (and bored) I just ff through it, seeing quick scenes of Gwynne killed by the toddler, oh my.

The movie turns out to be just an updating of The Money's Paw, pretty disappointing. But it's the telling of the story that matters. Gwynne is the only actor up to the task, all else fails. For kids only, since adults see right through the plot holes, even keeping "fantasy" in mind.

This is a perfect case of two different opinion being absolutely correct; despite "Gwynne's great performance" the movie is still a "BOMB".

Edited by TikiSoo
Otto silliness
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8 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

January 4

Black Narcissus (General Film Distributors, 1947/Dist. in US by Universal, 1947)
Source: Amazon Prime

Spoiler Alerts!

I did a review of this movie once before, possibly on this thread. This was my second time to watch it, and if it's supposed to have some deep meaning, I don't think I'm grasping it. It is extraordinarily beautiful to look at, winning Oscars for both color cinematography and color art direction. I will say it's subject matter for the time of its release was pretty extraordinary.

One of the themes I'm pretty sure I understood is the power an exotic locale can have over the Western mind, as we watch the Himalayan location work its voodoo on all the nuns who've traveled there: Sister Philippa (Flora Robson) foolishly plants pretty flowers instead of food;

Anyway, it all comes down to a nuns-and-death bell tower finale that's every bit as great as the one in Vertigo. Surely, Hitchcock must have seen and remembered this film!

 

I totally get you on all this; BLACK NARCISSUS is a gorgeous puzzler, as a person with a heavy interest in plants- the color footage of blooming trees always pulls me in. to me, a key to understanding what it's all about (Allllfie...🎶🎶🎵) is the subplot about the nun who is supposed to plant a vegetable garden but instead plants only blooming and non edible and even poisonous flowers because she loves how idyllic they are. to me, it explains a lot about the movie (maybe it's just because I would totally be that nun were I in the situation.)

no matter what, it is LOVELY to look at.

you mention HITCHcOCK in re: the ending, which is tHE HIGH POINT of the story for me- I always wish this movie was a STRAIGHT OUT AND OUT SUSPENSE THRILLER instead of flirting with the notion of being one.

DEBORAH KERR is supposed to be great in this, but KATHLEEN BYRON gives the real Oscar performance.

 

 

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THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE (1970, WB, TCM on HULU)

I have been wanting to see this for some time now, moreso since I saw STRAW DOGS (1971) a little while back.

It is, to put it as simply as I can, an offbeat, uneven, but ultimately fascinating romantic comedy from Sam Peckinpah.

(thinks about it for a minute...yeah, yeah. i'd call it that.)

JASON ROBARDS- looking for all the world like FRED C. DOBBS and giving a bastardian performance almost as good as Bogie's- is betrayed by his cohorts in the desert out west ca. 1910 and finds an underground spring while wandering.

He buys the land and builds a ROY BEAN sort of existence (more ramshackle, but a lot less fascist) around it. A variety of characters cross his path over the years including a debaucherous British minister (a surprisingly sexy DAVID WARNER in a role both completely unlike and yet in many ways very much like his character in the following year's STRAW DOGS) and local prostitute (a make up free (!!!!!!!!!!!!!) all natural (although apparently they still had peroxide in the old west) STELLA STEVENS.)

THE FILM IS over 2 hours, and there are two problems with it:

1. I would get a whiskey bottle thrown at my head by PECKINPAH for this, but here goes- THE CAMERA TRICKS (split screens, sped-up frames accompanied by player piano music, and a montage or two- including the opening credits which struck me as closer to "wacky sitcom" than violent-tinged neo realist western) are bad. They are in less than 1/15th of the film, so it's not bad enough to ruin it by any means, but they needed to GO.

2. (this is WARNER BROS' FAULT), I know BUTCH ****** CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE ******* KID made it FILM LAW that all westerns in the early seventies had to have folksy bull**** theme songs constructed around any one or three of a list of quaint terms (among them, but not limited to, BUTTERFLIES, MOONBEAMS, PENNY CANDY, DAFFYDOWNDILLIES, HONEY, MARMALADE, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, DAISIES, and ROCK SUGAR, with points for alliteration)- which play over montages that always involve a washtub scrubbing scene, this film is no exception. But it should have been. 

That criticism aside, this was a damn fine film and one I would absolutely recommend. I have arrived at Westerns late in life, but I have come to understand that the story of the West is in many many ways THE story of AMERICA and helps me to understand that as much as things change, man do they ever stay the same.

I also have to say that the last 20 minutes of this movie are quite finely constructed. I can't say i was altogether "happy" with the ending- but there's not a thing I'd change about it and it was quite moving.

The three primary leads are terrific- I long ago discovered there was more to ROBARDS than the surly old guy I grew up watching in films in the 80's; but the real revelations of the movie were DAVID WARNER and STELLA STEVENS- the latter of the two really blew me away and gave what I think is one of my favorite performances by an actress in a western. she was nothing short of a revelation.

this would make an interesting companion film to THE MOSQUITO COAST, THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE and THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN- unless (like me) you can only take so much in the sugary theme song department in one day.

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