speedracer5

I Just Watched...

15,752 posts in this topic

Jan. 11

Young Mr. Lincoln (20th Century Fox, 1939)
Source: TCM

For a brief stretch, this film covers some of the same ground as Abe Lincoln in Illinois, the RKO release with Raymond Massey that came out the following year. Both films make me aware I've never devoted much reading time to Lincoln's life prior to his presidency, so I have no idea if they have any accuracy. Someone who knows, enlighten me: was Stephen Douglas really a romantic rival with Lincoln for Mary Todd? This romantic triangle scenario crops up in both films, and if this is complete Hollywood fabrication, it seems odd that the exact same fabrication would appear in two different films made at two different studios, unless the same writer worked on both screenplays or something. The two films also share a courtship scene with young, doomed Ann Rutledge that are very similar and a scene of Lincoln out of his element at a fancy society ball which he's attended at Miss Todd's invitation.

Anyway, the two films don't trod the same path for very long, as Young Mr. Lincoln pretty quickly takes a sharp left turn into a courtroom drama, when young Perry Mason, er, I mean Abraham Lincoln, finds himself having to defend a pair of young farm boy brothers who've traveled to the "big city" for a Fourth of July picnic only to find themselves accused of murder when a local bully who's been tormenting them and their female companions all day long ends up stabbed to death after scrapping with the two boys in a clearing in the woods not far from the town square where all the festivities are going on. It takes the deductive reasoning of Lincoln and the fortuitous use of the Farmer's Almanac (no one actually glanced up at the sky the entire night of the murder to see what phase the moon was in? I thought people paid attention to that kind of stuff all the time in 1837!) to give him any chance at all at what initially seems to be an open-and-shut case.

Fonda is good casting as the stoic, plain-spoken Lincoln, who carries sadness within him but doesn't seem as tortured as Massey's version (or Daniel Day-Lewis'). I couldn't help but looking at his nose for a good deal of the movie. He's possibly wearing some kind of putty attachment to make him look more Licoln-ish (I was about to say prosthetic, but that sounds like a really advanced word for 1939). 

The film is very Fordian with frontier civilization Americana full of folks rough around the edges but at heart good, decent American folk the way the old movies wanted us to believe they really were. The folk of Springfield get all riled up about the unfairness of the apparent two-against-one nature that seems to have led to the murder, and a lynch mob descends upon the jail only minutes after the boys have been arrested, but Lincoln intercedes, Atticus Finch-style, and appeals to their better nature, even though they still grumble about it ("Don't seem right to have gone to all this fuss and not gotten at least ONE hangin' out of it!", one old coot grumbles, and we're supposed to believe he's a good dude, not a bloodthirsty neanderthal).

Alice Brady is an actress I mostly know for playing very flighty, broadly comic types in The Gay Divorcee and My Man Godfrey, but here she has a weighty role as the mother of the two boys who's unconscionably nearly forced into making a Sophie's Choice decision about which one will hang and which one will be spared, and you can see the pain this causes her. This was her final film. She died at the age of 46 only four months after the film was released.

Donald Meek is also cast against type as the unctuous prosecutor, who's on the wrong side but shows more spine than any other Donald Meek role I can ever remember. Ford also used him that same year in Stagecoach. And Ford reliable Ward Bond has a pretty important role as the friend and fellow bully of the victim, on whose testimony the entire case hangs. He barely sneaks into the opening credits as the 12th and last-billed cast member (the guy who plays Douglas doesn't even get billed, though he's in several scenes. I love the quirkiness of billing in old films!).

I don't know that there was any necessity to make a film that puts Lincoln in such a fantastic scenario that has no connection to actual history, but the film itself is a fun watch, and the use of so famous a figure probably makes it more compelling to the audience than making the protagonist just any small town 1800s lawyer.

Total Movies Watched This Year: 11

Henry Fonda, Alice Brady, Eddie Collins, Richard Cromwell, and Pauline Moore in Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Daughters Courageous (1939) - Ensemble melodrama from Warner Brothers and director Michael Curtiz. Nan Masters (Fay Bainter) is about to get married to nice guy Sam Sloane (Donald Crisp) when he ex-husband Jim (Claude Rains) arrives back in town. Their daughters (Priscilla, Rosemary, & Lola Lane and Gale Page) resent their irresponsible father, and try to keep Nan with Sam. Meanwhile, daughter Buff Masters (Priscilla Lane) falls for a troubled young man (John Garfield) with an uncertain future. Also featuring Frank McHugh, Dick Foran, May Robson, Hobart Cavanaugh, William Hopper, and Berton Churchill.

Fresh off of the success of Four Daughters, Warner Brothers reunited the cast and director in this follow-up that sees them playing different characters. Garfield's part is a bit underwritten and unfocused, but Rains gets one of his better characterizations as the restless Jim. I also liked seeing Donald Crisp is an against-type part.   (7/10)

220px-Daughters_Courageous_FilmPoster.jp

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, LawrenceA said:

Daughters Courageous (1939)

220px-Daughters_Courageous_FilmPoster.jp

I think this is a lovely piece of family sentiment, with one of Claude Rains' most engaging performances. You're correct, Lawrence, about Crisp being cast against type (and he's very good in the role, too). The film's ending is also rather unexpected. Yet another triumph for Michael Curtiz, I actually prefer this film to the better known Four Daughters, though Garfield has a better written part in the earlier film.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dust Be My Destiny (1939) - Romantic drama from Warner Brothers and director Lewis Seiler. Joe Bell (John Garfield) ends up in jail on a false charge. He falls in love with the work-farm foreman's daughter, Mabel (Priscilla Lane), and circumstances see them on the run, using their wits to survive and stay ahead of the law. Also with Frank McHugh, Alan Hale, Henry Armetta, Billy Halop, Bobby Jordan, Stanley Ridges, John Litel, Moroni Olsen, Marc Lawrence, Ward Bond, Yakima Canutt, John Hamilton, William Hopper, and Charley Grapewin.

Garfield and Lane are teamed once again in this unusual love story. It's kind of all over the place, part crime drama, part newspaper picture. The leads are terrific, though, and the supporting cast is top notch, helping to keep things interesting. All in all, I enjoyed this uneven effort.    (7/10)

220px-Dust_Be_My_Destiny_FilmPoster.jpeg

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"La Notte" - Michelangelo Antonioni - 1962

starring Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau and Monica Vitti -

a day in the life of a couple who have lost their moorings -

he is having a book published, but doesn't seem excited -

she is losing a good friend and succumbs to wandering the streets -

eventually, they get together, go to a nightclub and attend a lavish party -

he is attracted to the partygiver's daughter and gets a job offer from the man -

she is attracted to a handsome guest at the party -

nothing much happens with the new love interests -

the next morning, they are leaving the party, realize that they have lost each other and then try to make love -

outside, in a sort of sandpit -

this is a devastating portrait of a married couple who have reached the nadir of their relationship -

they can barely feel anything for each other -

she wants to die, because she doesn't love him anymore -

he thinks that they could start over -

the material is typically Antonioni-esque -

bleak, cold, forbidding -

no hope, not even a glimmer -

but, at the same time, it is absolutely fascinating -

like looking at an accident, you cannot look away -

the material is in the hands of three compelling actors -

and a director whose unique talent will always be "new" to the screen -

17a-LA-NOTTE2050.jpg

la-notte-1961-michelangelo-antonioni-04.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I Met a Murderer (1939) - British drama from Grand National and director Roy Kellino. Farmer Mark Warrow (James Mason) is stuck in a loveless marriage with the ill-tempered Martha (Sylvia Coleridge), which leads to tragedy and Mark being on the run. He finds refuge with aspiring writer Jo Trent (Pamela Kellino/Mason), but she may just be using him for her own purposes. Also featuring William Devlin, Peter Coke, Esma Cannon, Sheila Morgan, James Harcourt, and Sheppy as Sheppy.

Mason must have hit it off well with co-star Pamela. She was married to the director at the time of filming, but less than a year later she was divorced from him, and then quickly married to Mason, with the two remaining together for over 20 years. The movie is small in scale, obviously a low budget effort. The performances range from passable to bad, sometimes even within a single scene. Mason and Pamela are both credited along with Kellino for the writing the story and screenplay, so they were all invested in the production. It doesn't amount to much in the end, though, and I was turned off of the film fairly early by its use of a cheap, manipulative emotional plot development which I won't spoil here.   (5/10)

3f86bf4b6bc2f8478cbbd00362a644ef.jpg

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Let Us Live (1939) - Drama from Columbia Pictures and director John Brahm. Working-class couple Brick (Henry Fonda) and Mary (Maureen O'Sullivan) are looking forward to being wed soon, and embarking on the rest of their lives. Their plans come to a halt when Brick and his pal Joe (Alan Baxter) are falsely convicted of a murder-robbery and sentenced to death. It's up to Mary, with help from policeman Lt. Everett (Ralph Bellamy), to clear their names before it's too late. Also featuring Stanley Ridges, Henry Kolker, George Lynn, George Douglas, Phillip Trent, Martin Spellman, Charles Lane, John Qualen, and Byron Foulger.

There's some good cinematography courtesy of Lucien Ballard in this one, with nice shadowplay in the prison scenes. Fonda is good, even if his character seems more than a little naive. O'Sullivan seems a bit more unsteady, but she's not bad. There are a few exciting scenes near the end, and the drama beforehand is moving. A lesser-known film that is worth checking out.   (7/10)

17127-let-us-live-0-230-0-345-crop.jpg?k

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jan. 12

Replicas (Entertainment Studios, 2019)
Source: Theater

Some Spoilers, But I Won't Reveal Anything Specific about the Second Half of the Movie!

Keanu Reeves plays a genius biomedical researcher who's relocated his family to Puerto Rico to head a top secret project in which he and his team are attempting to imprint human consciousness onto an artificial life form. Whenever a mortally wounded soldier who still has brain function is brought in, Reeves and his assistants try to transfer a DNA replica of their brains into an ultra-sophisticated android with as much freedom of movement as the human body. Why so many soldiers keep getting mortally wounded in Puerto Rico in peacetime isn't explained, but at the beginning of the movie, a seventh such attempt is being made, which once again results in failure. The brain doesn't accept the new body and begins trying to harm itself, forcing Reeves to literally pull its plug. Though patience among those providing funding is growing short, Reeves is sure he's near a breakthrough - for the first time, the android spoke intelligible sentences after receiving the new brain pattern.

Reeves plans to take his family on a weekend boating trip. His wife is played by the beautiful Alice Eve, whom I immediately thought was too young to be playing a mother of three, but I see on imdb that's she's 37. They have three kids - a high school age girl, a middle school age boy and an elementary school age girl. They run into a storm that rivals the one in The Bad and the Beautiful (or maybe The Rains Came - I mean, it's a doozy). A tree collapses through the front windshield of their SUV, impaling Eve and apparently killing her instantly. The car goes off an embankment and into a lake, and everyone but Reeves dies. Recruiting his loyal assistant played by Thomas Middleditch, an actor I know only from the Verizon commercials, Reeves launches a seemingly mad scheme to collect DNA samples of all his family members and grow clones of them in his own basement, into which he can then imprint their consciousnesses using his experimental technology and have them pick up their lives right where they left off. We're told this process has worked before with animals, but never with humans. At this point, I was wondering if he's really this smart, why wasn't he trying to clone people from the start, instead of just putting the DNA of their brains into an android, but the movie doesn't explain this, either.

He hits a couple of snags during the "incubation" period, which we're told will last 17 days. First of all, thinking only of bringing his family back to life, he initially forgets to come up with any explanation of their sudden absences from their daily lives. This results in a humorous scene in which he tries to cover for each of them via their social media devices, during which he discovers, among other things, his older daughter has a boyfriend he didn't know about. More seriously, he discovers to his horror he only has the technology to bring three of his four loved ones back to life. Not wishing to burden the others with the terrible decision he then has to make, he removes all memories of this one person from the brain patterns of the other three - apparently he can get that specific with his imprint technology. After which, he has to remove all evidence of this person's existence. To its credit, the movie does take a little time to show how impossible it would be to remove all physical traces of one's existence, especially in the social media age, and how painful it is for Reeves to even attempt it.

Okay, I won't reveal any more. Except to add: I saw no trailers before watching this movie and had no idea where it was going. It appears for quite some time to be in the fairly narrow "scientist plays God, rues the consequences" genre of horror/sci-fi, which we've seen in everything from Frankenstein movies to The Fly (on tonight!) to Dr. Moreau. That probably would have been a more interesting movie, frankly. Instead, it turns into a "father will do anything to protect his family, runs a lot" movie more like everything Liam Neeson has done in the last 15 years.

What to say about Keanu Reeves, who took time to make this movie in between John Wick installments? He's an actor I've actually liked when he sticks to his strengths (or, to put in harsher terms, avoids his very obvious limitations). He's best when he's mostly a blank slate, largely emotionless, determined and single-minded. This movie requires him to emote a lot. He's supposed to be expressing grief, rage, panic, even happiness, and boy, there's just something weird when he smiles in this movie, like he doesn't really know how to do it. The dialogue for all the characters, which is pretty leaden, doesn't help things. And, as I say, the interesting ethical and psychological implications of realizing what it means to be cloned aren't really dwelled upon, as the movie quickly devolves into a conventional family-on-the-run thriller. 

So, not highly recommended, but fans of Reeves and/or sci-fi might get something out of it. It's getting a 5.5 on imdb, the lowest rating of any movie I've seen this year.

Total Movies Watched This Year: 12

Keanu Reeves in Replicas (2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mutiny in Outer Space (1965) - Braindead science fiction from writers/directors Arthur C. Pierce & Hugo Grimaldi. In the far future of the late 1990's, the U.S. Space Station X-7 becomes infested by a fungus discovered in the ice caves of the Moon. Maj. Towers (William Leslie) wants to quarantine the station and prevent any exposure to Earthbound vessels or personnel, but station chief Col. Cromwell (Richard Garland) orders the news of the fungus to be kept secret, partly as to not tarnish his command's reputation, but mainly because the Colonel is suffering from "space raptures", a sort of cabin fever. Maj. Towers realize there may be no choice but to organize a - Mutiny in Space! Also featuring Dolores Faith, Pamela Curran, James Dobson, Ron Stokes, Boyd Holister, Glenn Langan, Francine York, and Harold Lloyd Jr.

This cheap, B&W bore features some truly atrocious miniature effects, awful acting (Dobson as the station doctor takes the prize for worst), and a dreadful script loaded with phony "space" jargon. The fungus looks like Spanish moss mixed with something your cat threw up. The men all wear baggy space uniforms, while the women's are skin-tight. At one point, heroine Dolores Faith quietly voices her trepidation about the station's fate, prompting William Leslie to slap her in the face. Naturally, she quickly apologizes to him and asks if he'll still have her. Those were the days!   (3/10)

220px-Mutiny_in_Outer_Space.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nightmare in the Sun (1965) - Thriller from Zodiac Films and writer-producer-director Marc Lawrence. A hitchhiker  (John Derek) headed for L.A. passes through a small desert town and gets mixed up in the marital discord of the town's richest residents. He soon finds himself accused of a crime he didn't commit, and he escapes into the desert wastes, chased by various unsavory types looking for a big money reward. Also featuring Aldo Ray, Arthur O'Connell, Ursula Andress, John Marley, Allyn Joslyn, Keenan Wynn, Sammy Davis Jr., George Tobias, Lurene Tuttle, Richard Jaeckal, and Robert Duvall.

There's some good stuff in this heat-soaked suspense film. The large cast is interesting. Some, like Sammy Davis Jr., only show up for a cameo. Robert Duvall and Richard Jaeckel play bikers looking to cash in. Duvall, in only his third big screen role and sporting blonde hair, gets a nice psychotic freak-out moment.   (6/10)

Nightmare_movieposter.jpg

  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jan. 12

The Fly (20th Century Fox, 1958)
Source: TCM

No real spoilers, I don't think, but if you don't want to know anything about the movie at all, you probably shouldn't read 

My first time to watch this very well-known horror movie. Being from Fox, it's certainly not a TCM regular. Movie Collector's database says it's aired eight times in the network's history, though it was on in both December and January. People who seem to understand these things better than me say TCM probably has to agree to air a movie multiple times within a certain time period in order to lease it, so this seems to be one of those movies that shows up twice in TCM on the space of six weeks and then doesn't air again for five years. I completely missed the December airing, but I'm glad I caught it tonight.

Anyway, I was well familiar with David Cronenberg's 1986 remake, and I see that it at least follows the basic concept of how The Fly came to be as the original. Ben Mankiewicz said in his intro that Vincent Price was added to the cast only after Fox decided to amp up the budget and make it an A-list pic. I presume Herbert Marshall, too. Now after having seen it, I'm curious if Price and Marshall's scenes were filmed only after this upgrade. They both appear almost entirely in a framing sequence, the first part of which covers a fairly substantial portion of the film. Price appears only briefly in the main story in the middle part of the film and Marshall not at all. It has a bit of a feel of perhaps not being part of the original screenplay, but I guess I'll have to do some reading about that.

Price and his brother are in the scientific research business together in Montreal, and one of their contractors appears to be the Canadian government. Price appears to handle mostly the business end, his brother Andre (Al Heidison) the actual research. I won't reveal the specifics of the framing sequence, which give away all the movie's resolutions. In flashback, we learn Andre has built a teleportation device in his laboratory basement that disintegrates atoms in one chamber and reintegrates them in another. He movies in very reckless and unprofessional short order from zapping around dinnerware to house pets to trying the thing on himself. On his second attempt on himself, his young son carries an unusual-looking fly brought into the house to show his dad. The fly escapes the boy's cupped hands and ends up in the basement disintegration chamber just as Andre hits the on switch, simultaneously teleporting their particles but not reassembling them exactly as they were when they entered.

The nature of how the teleportation transforms human and fly is different from the remake, in some ways less messy and maybe not as horrifying as what happens to Jeff Goldblum's character. But still ... not good. The flashbacks finally make clear the confusing, seemingly insane behavior of Alan's wife (Patricia Owens) in the framing sequence. After the actions she takes, I'm unsure anything could have been done to save Heidison's character, although Marshall taking a virtual boulder to a spider web when maybe he could have just brushed the spider away ensures there will be no saving.

So, curiously, Price doesn't actually play The Fly, as I'd always assumed in all the years I'd been aware of this movie. This really marked the beginning of his dominance of the horror genre. He'd been in House of Wax and The Mad Magician in 1953 and 1954, respectively but didn't really kick off working almost exclusively in horror until 1958. He only gets third billing in this movie, despite practically being the main character, possibly the result of his late edition to the film.

Mankiewicz said there's been much debate about whether this is actually a great movie or just a great idea turned into a so-so movie ... an unusually frank discussion on a TCM intro/outro about the quality of the presentation. A 7.1 imdb score would rate as only "pretty good", I think. Personally, I found the movie to be really plodding with not nearly enough moments of suspense. I don't know that the framing sequence, in which we already sort of know the end was the best way to handle things.

I also watched the first 40 minutes of Return of the Fly, which appeared to be a stronger movie, but I'm too sleepy to finish it.

Total Movies Watched This Year: 13

 The Fly (1958)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/11/2019 at 11:04 AM, LornaHansonForbes said:

he has been openly abusing and imprisoning young women (many underage) for a looooooooooooooooong time now.

and getting away with it.

People still defend Roman Polanski.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, Fedya said:

People still defend Roman Polanski.

Not me, if that makes you feel any better.

I mean, CHINATOWN is a masterpiece, but dude really should be in jail.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/12/2019 at 4:17 AM, Bogie56 said:

Cumberbatch who plays Dominic Cummings the mastermind behind the Leave campaign starts by tossing all of the important Leave politicians and traditional tactics in the waste bin.

You may also wish to read Cummings' own thoughts on the matter.

One of my favorite quotes from the piece:

Quote

Most of the MPs we dealt with were not highly motivated to win and lacked extreme focus, even those who had been boring everybody about this for decades. They sort of wanted to win but they had other priorities. They were very happy having dinner parties and gossiping.

That, and the rest of the paragraph, so well describes those with non-mainstream views who are in Washington allegedly trying to promote them.

{edited to fix formatting issues}

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

and I was turned off of the film fairly early by its use of a cheap, manipulative emotional plot development which I won't spoil here. 

Jo reveals she's actually a he?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lucky Night (1939) - Romantic drama from MGM and director Norman Taurog. Wealthy daughter Cora Jordan (Myrna Loy) never takes to the guys her father (Henry O'Neill) approves of for potential husbands. He's even more incensed when Cora meets out-of-work Bill Overton (Robert Taylor) and, after a whirlwind night of crazy adventures, she marries him. Cora tries to get Bill set up with a job, but his propensity toward gambling undermines their newly-wedded bliss. Also featuring Douglas Fowley, Joseph Allen, Bernard Nedell, Bernadene Hayes, Charles Lane, Edward Gargan, and Marjorie Main.

Another minor romance that doesn't distinguish itself much from the pack. I liked Taylor a bit more than usual, but his drunk-acting is awful. The "wild night" the couple has when they first meet is enjoyable, and one wishes more of the movie were like that, although that's kind of the point of the story, that all nights can't be adventures, and one needs to settle down and be responsible eventually.    (6/10)

Poster_of_Lucky_Night.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/12/2019 at 10:58 AM, sewhite2000 said:

Anyway, the two films don't trod the same path for very long, as Young Mr. Lincoln pretty quickly takes a sharp left turn into a courtroom drama, when young Perry Mason, er, I mean Abraham Lincoln, finds himself having to defend a pair of young farm boy brothers who've traveled to the "big city" for a Fourth of July picnic only to find themselves accused of murder when a local bully who's been tormenting them and their female companions all day long ends up stabbed to death after scrapping with the two boys in a clearing in the woods not far from the town square where all the festivities are going on. It takes the deductive reasoning of Lincoln and the fortuitous use of the Farmer's Almanac (no one actually glanced up at the sky the entire night of the murder to see what phase the moon was in? I thought people paid attention to that kind of stuff all the time in 1837!) to give him any chance at all at what initially seems to be an open-and-shut case.

I love this movie, these scenes are among my favorites in courtrooms.

The Jack Cass joke is very funny, even funnier is the judge's delayed reaction.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rio (1939) - Crime drama from Universal Pictures and director John Brahm. French financier Paul Reynard (Basil Rathbone) has defrauded millions of francs from various banks, and is arrested and sentenced to a penal colony in South America. His wife Irene (Sigrid Gurie) and Paul's loyal manservant Dirk (Victor McLaglen) travel to South America to try and secure his release however possible. Irene takes a job singing in a nightclub where she meets American Bill Gregory (Robert Cummings), and the two fall for each other, setting the stage for a tragic confrontation. Also featuring Leo Carrillo, Billy Gilbert, Maurice Moscovich, Samuel S. Hinds, Irving Pichel, Henry Armetta, Joe Sawyer, and Irving Bacon as "Mushy".

Rathbone is a good as the self-assured conniver. Some subtext can be read into Dirk's devotion to Paul, which adds an unusual layer to the proceedings. There's some nice cinematography, particularly a scene with a slowly strobing lamp, alternating darkness to light. Sigrid Gurie was supposedly a last-minute replacement for Danielle Darrieux.   (6/10)

220px-Rio_(1939_film)_poster.jpeg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
54 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

Rio (1939) -There's some nice cinematography, particularly a scene with a slowly strobing lamp, alternating darkness to light.

220px-Rio_(1939_film)_poster.jpeg

I've yet to see a print of this film in which you can appreciate the cinematography. The prints I've seen are way too dark and murky.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Second Fiddle (1939) - Musical from 20th Century Fox and director Sidney Lanfield. A Hollywood movie studio is trying to cast the lead in their film adaptation of a best-selling novel, Girl of the North. The casting search is headline news as every actress in town is tested and rejected. Studio PR man Jimmy Sutton (Tyrone Power) finds school teacher Trudi Hovland (Sonja Henie) in rural Minnesota as knows that she's perfect for the part. She's quickly cast, and to drum up even more publicity, Jimmy arranges a fake romance between her and singing star Roger Maxwell (Rudy Vallee), only for Jimmy to find that he cares for Trudi himself. Also featuring Edna May Oliver, Mary Healy, Lyle Talbot, Alan Dinehart, Minna Gombell, Spencer Charters, Charles Lane, and Minerva Urecal.

Obviously inspired by the casting calls for Scarlett O'Hara on Gone with the Wind, this is a light, in-joke-laden romance with as much substance as a cream puff. Henie gets her ice-skating in, and there are several Irving Berlin tunes heard. Edna May Oliver steals the show as Henie's aunt/chaperone. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" received a nomination for the Best Song Oscar.   (6/10)

second-fiddle-movie-poster-md.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw Man on a Tightrope (1953), one of Elia Kazan's least-known films, which is set in the Communist-ruled Czechoslovakia of 1952. Fredric March owns a small-time circus, except that now it's been taken over by the state, which wants to micromanage everything, right down to the clown acts. March and his performers want to escape across the border to part of Germany controlled by the Americans. 

The film was shot in Bavaria, which is a big plus. The gritty, run-down circus atmosphere is nicely caught. We can see that although this is hardly a first-rate outfit, it still provides needed entertainment and escape for those who watch the show. As one might expect, the Communists have spies in the circus, and March doesn't know who to trust. His daughter (Terry Moore) has the hots for a young roustabout (Cameron Mitchell) who seems to have come from nowhere. His wife (Gloria Grahame) has the Gloria Grahame thing going on of despising her husband and looking around for someone to betray him with (Richard Boone seems a likely prospect). Betrayal is one of the big themes of the film. Even the Communist officials are looking for ways to betray each other.

This is one of my favorite Fredric March performances, particularly from this part of his career. Among a number of strong supporting performances by men, Adolphe Menjou stands out as a Communist official who sees March as dangerous precisely because he is an honest man. Menjou has remarkable presence every moment he's on screen.

Kazan gave a lot of credit to his producer, Gerd Oswald, and his cameraman, Georg Kraus. It's a solid film, and I look forward to seeing it again.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

The Jack Cass joke is very funny, even funnier is the judge's delayed reaction

Thanks for bringing that up! I meant to include that in my review. Surprised they could get away with that. And I love how the judge finally got the joke like 30 seconds later!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Sun Never Sets (1939) - Adventure drama from Universal Pictures and director Rowland V. Lee. Two brothers, Clive (Basil Rathbone) and John Randolph (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), work for the British Colonial Service on the Gold Coast of Africa. They come into conflict with mad Doctor Zurof (Lionel Atwill) who plots to start a world war and make a fortune off of the rare earth minerals in the nearby mines. Also featuring C. Aubrey Smith, Barbara O'Neil, Virginia Field, Melville Cooper, Mary Forbes, John Burton, Theodore von Eltz, and Cecil Kellaway.

I wanted to like this one more than I did. I enjoyed Rathbone's scenes with Atwill (memories of Son of Frankenstein), and Atwill gets to ham it up as the power-mad schemer. Rathbone gets to be heroic, but he stumbles a bit, I felt, during his big emotional breakdown moment. Also, more time is spent on the brothers' love lives with O'Neil and Field than on African adventure and intrigue. I liked Melville Cooper as deadpan-comic attache.   (6/10)

220px-The_Sun_Never_Sets_(film).jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jan. 14

Escape Room (Columbia, 2019)
Source: Theater

I saw my brother's family over Christmas, and they participated in a real-life escape room just the weekend before. The first one I ever heard about was maybe 10 years ago, but they seem to have really become the rage in the last year or two. You go into a mockup of some real-life location - in the case of my brother's family it was the teller room of a bank, complete with a vault you had to figure out how to open - and you have a certain time limit to accomplish some kind of goal - usually getting out of the room, but there can be additional goals. Anything in the room might provide a clue or be used as a tool to advance toward your goal (his son-in-law broke one of the keys by trying to open the wrong item with it, but he was told after it was over that this had happened before). It costs like $30 a piece, so not a terribly expensive evening, if you get together with your friends (in my brother's case, I suspect he paid for everybody, so it probably ran him about $200). They got out before the deadline, and it appears each member of the group made at least one significant contribution to the effort, so they all left with a sense of accomplishment. 

Anyway, just a funny coincidence that I heard a detailed description of a real-life escape room just a couple of weeks before watching this movie, in which the writer or writers thought it was an ideal scenario for a suspense thriller/horror movie. This is, I assume, a fairly low-budget affair, featuring virtually no stars (the only cast member I'd ever heard of was Deborah Ann Woll, who gets top billing and was on True Blood, an HBO show I used to watch), relying instead on the concept to draw in viewers.

Six people who are strangers to each other each receive an intricate puzzle box, they think from someone they know, that when opened, reveals information about how to get to the escape room, which is inside a 15-story skyscraper and the news that the first party member to get out will win $10,000 (I don't think I'd have to worry about getting killed. I never would have opened the damn puzzle box! I gave up on the Rubik's Cube after like an hour). It's a modern PC blend of genders and ethnicities. There's a painfully shy female quantum physics undergrad, an arrogant stockbroker who fancies himself a Master of the Universe, a financially struggling stockboy in a grocery store, a female veteran of the Iraq combat, a nerdy computer geek who's done 50 previous escape rooms and assumes this one will be a cinch, and a truck driver who'd love a cash infusion before his profession gets taken over by self-operating vehicles (I liked this reference to a possible real-world future). These movies are usually populated by young, beautiful people, and indeed, all the members of the group appear to be under 35, except for the truck driver, who's about 50. As it turns out, they all have one very specific thing in common, and it's the reason they were invited, though we don't learn what that is until about two-thirds of the way in.

What they think is the waiting room actually turns out to be the first escape room, a room-sized replica of a working oven in which they begin to be cooked! They all barely survive this encounter but begin entering a seemingly endless series of rooms, each of which activates some deadly trap minutes after they enter it, a trap that can only be escaped by finding clues within the room and interpreting their meaning. After the first room, they begin losing party members at the steady rate of one per room, and pretty soon, it begins to look like no one will make it out alive.

The various death scenarios are clever, and the movie keeps the tension amped up. It was a pretty good thrill ride. But ... just don't think too hard about what it would actually take to set up all these rooms and who could finance such a project. I feel like it would cost a hundred trillion dollars to make these rooms that would be good for one use only, as they all pretty much destroy themselves. And all this to kill six people? There are revelations about the nature of the setup in the final five to ten minutes that are just absolutely ludicrous. They didn't completely ruin my enjoyment of the movie, but as I say, it's definitely a flick that it's better to just roll with and not pester your brain with questions like, "Yeah, but why ...?". The traps are impossibly hard, both mentally and physically, and it's probably ridiculous to think any of the party would have even survived one room, much less a half dozen or so.

It was a fun watch, but predictable. I correctly guessed who would be the first member to die and who would be a (the?) survivor (I won't reveal if there was more than one). There's also a setup for a sequel, which is par for the course with this kind of movie these days.

Total Movies I've Watched This Year: 14

Taylor Russell in Escape Room (2019)

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us