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NIGHTMARE ALLEY tonight on Retroplex 8 p.m. EST DON'T MISS!


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Actual phone conversation between me and my mother on Sat., at 7:45 p.m.:

 

Mom: "So what's good on at 8:00?"

Me: "Put on Retroplex, NIGHTMARE ALLEY is playing"

Mom: "NIGHTMARE ALLEY? Ugh, that's disgusting, isn't it? I saw it years ago."

 

Me: "But Mom, it's supposed to be depressing and creepy. But you like Tyrone

Power, right?"

Mom: "Oh, he was so good-looking"

Me: "Well, here he's supposed to be this tough grifter type, not so beautiful."

Mom: "Who else is in it, I don't remember".

Me: "Joan Blondell and ----"

Mom: "Oh, I like her!"

Me: "Yeah, she's underrated, a good actress. And there's Helen Walker who's this really

scary psychologist.....:

Mom: "Helen Walker? I don't think I know her -- what does she look like?"

Me: "Mom, I don't know, just put the movie on, you won't be disappointed".

Mom: "I don't like those kind of stories".

Me: "What kind of stories?"

Mom: "Oh, I don't know. Maybe I'll watch something else. But not KING KONG."

Me: "What's wrong with KING KONG?"

Mm: "Oh, it's silly, and Fay Wray screams too much."

Me: "Well, wouldn't you?"

Mom: "Maybe I'll just color my hair instead."

Me: Mom, I think you should really watch NIGHTMARE ALLEY".

Mom: "Well, I'll watch a little, and if I don't like it, I'll change the channel".

Me: "I guarantee you, once you start watching it you won't want to change the channel."

Mom: "We'll see.

Me: "Look, I'm gonna go now to get ready to see it."

Mom: "Okay. Enjoy it."

Me: "Good night"

 

Message was edited by: Bronxgirl48

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I'm taking her out tonight for a venerable South Florida tradition -- the Chinese buffet. Then, over the kung pao chicken and fried rice, I'll find out if she saw the movie and what she thought of it.

Then, I'll come back, take some Tums, and write up a review.

 

Our phone calls are always this surreal.

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Well, that particular poultry is what they throw to the geek.....

 

Maybe I won't have the chicken at the buffet tonight....

 

A Bronx Girl film, hmmm, I don't know about that. It would include a little bit of CROSSING DELANCY, a little THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR, a little THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT, a little I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING.

 

And directed by Luis Bunuel.

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Bronxie -- Well, that particular poultry is what they throw to the geek.....

 

I know. I'm just playin' with you, BG.

 

A Bronx Girl film, hmmm, I don't know about that. It would include a little bit of CROSSING DELANCY, a little THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR, a little THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT, a little I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING. And directed by Luis Bunuel.

 

I'm there. I wonder what your mom would think of being in a Bunuel film?

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If NIGHTMARE ALLEY isn't the grimmest film noir, I don't know what is. Tyrone Power, as an unscrupulous carnival barker turned society mentalist and pseudo-spiritual guru, hollow and self-deluded, hard coal black eyes glistening with overarching ambition, found the role of his career as Stanton Carlisle. The underbelly of two worlds -- the seedy, somewhat creepy travelling carnival, brimming with colorful, cheaply appealing attractions, exploitation and downtrodden, rummy performers -- and the upper-crust milieu inhabited by soul-starved millionaires and grieving rich matrons -- are the setpieces for the fatalistc arc of Stanton's rise, fall, and (possible, but not guaranteed) redemption. The ominous b&w cinematography, the shrieky horror of the geek that becomes a vocal reverberating symbol of guilt and self-destruction, the unrelenting gloom of existence as just one big con game where it's hard to sort out the players from those that get taken, the hard-wired need human beings have to create meaning out of chaos, whether that meaning takes the form of religion, psychiatry, or even tarot cards, add up to an unsettling and disturbing universe where free will doesn't necessarily negate the hand of fate, and where fate can ironically take a hand to turn us into fully realized individuals with the ability to control our own lives through morality (in the larger sense of the word) and reason.

 

It's an expertly conceived production, finely acted and fully realized. It draws you in and doesn't let you go. The slick art direction nevertheless creates a believably sordid atmosphere of moral degradation.

 

Ian Keith takes top acting honors as Joan Blondell's faded boozehound husband and partner, the best scene being his besotted elegance in recreating his former stage glory in front of a rapt Power, but Keith also deftly etches, in his short screen time, a very realistic portrait of a chronic alcoholic. Blondell is good as the warm earth mother, vulnerable to Stanton's manipulative charms. Coleen Gray effectively conveys fidelity, sweetness and ultimate moral strength. Helen Walker is chilling as the cold-blooded conniving Lilith Ritter; it's a performance you won't soon forget. In her, Stanton meets his match, as she plays with his conflicted psyche for all it's worth. (and it's worth quite a lot) Her final confrontation with Stanton even makes US question what is real and what isn't, and taps into our primal fears about guilt and moral responsibility.

 

A great noir and a film experience you may squirm at, but won't want to miss.

 

A quiet jazz tune from a radio inside the carnival tent at first sounds like a dirge; Molly as "Electra" really does carry a light at the end of a dark tunnel, even though we're not completely sure, despite her best efforts (and ours), that it will stay lit.

 

Message was edited by: Bronxgirl48

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At the risk of gushing, your review or take on "Nightmare Alley" is so eloquently written. I can't believe you're a regular joe like the rest of us. Surely you write film reviews for the Times, Cahier du Cinema. Well said and I wholeheartedly agree. Helen Walker is bone chilling. And Tyrone Power...aaaaaaaaaaahhhh! Great job. He was so heartless.

 

Beware for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee!!

 

Nicely done Bronx girl. Now go have some chicken a la king...on me.

 

And I hope your mom saw the movie BEFORE she read your review.

 

CineMaven.

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I'm at the bottom of some truly gifted writers on this message board but, I keep trying, so thanks for the vote of confidence.

 

Can I have some coconut cake with my delicious chicken a la king?

 

Mom opted for hair coloring as I somehow knew she would (as only a daughter knows....)

She half-remembered it from 60 years ago with a negative reaction, so to her this means she never wants to see it again. Her loss!

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I thoroughly enjoyed your review, Bronxgirl. You picked up on a lot of things I think I missed. I actually had expected Tyrone's character to be even darker than it was, but he sure showed he could act. I can see why his fans might not have been happy to see him play such a character, though. Ian Keith---he was just great. I "discovered" him in this role and will never forget him now. His part reminded me of a more subtle John Carradine.

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