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LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...


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I watched seven films for the first time last week:

 

"The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent" (1958).  Roger Corman directed cheapie would-be epic is a Bad mix of 50's slang ("Cool!") and Norse mythology.  The Viking Women and their adversaries and allies all have access to curling irons, permanents, and hair dye--even the slaves in the mine.  Except for one character, hair color determines their fate. There are enough laughs so that film isn't painful to watch.  On a "So Bad It's Good" scale, 2.3/4.

 

"Creature From the Haunted Sea" (1961)--Unfunny, Godawful spoof of horror movies and spy movies.  Roger Corman's worst movie.  Consider yourself warned.

 

"The Day the World Ended" (1956)--Starring Richard Denning, Lori Nelson, and Adele Jergens.  Roger Corman directed version of how WW III caused the end of the world--with a few unexplained survivors.  The monsters are not bad, the script is bare bones, the acting is fair to poor.  The matter-of-fact narration is by Chet Huntley.  Interesting, if implausible, fast moving watch.

 

"H.E.A.L.T.H." (1979)--Starring Carol Burnett, James Garner, Lauren Bacall, and Vanessa Redgrave. Robert Altman film was barely released, is hard to find.  Satire on politics set in a health convention has as many misses as hits.  Carol Burnett is the best overall player--her Presidential representative/spokesperson is on target with her cliched platitudes and droning doubletalk.  Her scene where she finds a dead body in the hotel pool after fighting with her ex (Garner) is the funniest thing in the film.  Redgrave as the Nixon figure is amusing, as is Bacall as the Ford figure.  Very worth a watch--I saw a very dark copy on YT.

 

"Doctor Rhythm" (1938)--Bing Crosby and Bea Lillie team up in this one.  Lillie and Crosby do a on-target parody of Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy style operetta, "Only a Gypsy Knows".  Lillie has MacDonald's physical and vocal mannerisms Down (the Costume Department contributed an overly starched and ruffled horror that looks like a reject from "Naughty Marietta" (1935)), and Crosby does a good job of Eddy at his most clueless.  Lillie and Franklin Pangborn have a classic wordplay routine "12 Dozen Double Damask Dimity Napkins".  Recommended.

 

"On Approval" (1944)--Classic British comedy is all verbal.  Lillie takes her potential husband for a month long tryout in Victorian England; major complications ensue.  Lillie gets the best line,  Googie Withers and Roland Culver have the best exchange:

 

Lillie, to potential husband, who's facing away from her: "What color are my eyes?"

 

At night, an upset Withers, to husband Culver: "I'm having such Terrible dreams!"

 

Culver, growling: "So'm I;  it's the Haggis."

 

Highly recommended.

 

"The Show of Shows" (1929)--Long, early Warner Bros. musical revue, very uneven.  Highlights include Winnie Lightner's two songs "Pingo Pongo" and "Singin' in the Bathtub", the two color Technicolor Chinese fantasy "Li-Po-Li" with male singer and Myrna Loy, John Barrymore's monologue from "Richard III, and a Floradora Girl and Boy number featuring Myrna Loy and Lupino Lanes' music hall comedy.  Frank Fay as Host is irritating.  More misses than hits, but the hits make it worth a watch--just have caffeine handy.

 

Most Favorite--"On Approval" (1944)--Lillie to extra: "We're sneering acquaintances".

 

Least Favorite--"Creature From the Haunted Sea" (1961).

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I remember those segments you mention in Show of Shows but had never seen the movie all the way through. Until just recently on TCM. The opening numbers were so bad that had I been in the theater way back then I might have walked out (not really, perhaps; all this was so new back then). Or maybe smuggled in a quart of coffee :-) .  I also enjoyed the song "...just for an hour," by a woman whose name I know not, and I also felt that the sisters routine had a bit o' charm to it.

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I saw four movies this week.  Miss Hokusai is an anime film about the daughter of the most famous of all Japanese painters.  (Hokusai is best known for a painting of a giant wave, the most famous of all Japanese paintings.)  It's interesting, and parts of it are very attractive.  But ultimately this intelligent woman doesn't become a great painter in her own right, nor does she have a love affair or any other intense emotional relationship.  Moonlight is certainly worth watching, though I must confess that I didn't realize that the protagonist's friend was in all three parts of the movie, or quite realize what happened at the very end.  The Courtship of Eddie's Father asks the question, would it be worth watching five episodes of a sitcom if they were done by one of the great Hollywood directors.  And my answer is "Meh."  Digging for Fire is the first movie by Joe Swanberg that I've seen.  Count me unimpressed.  The couple are uninteresting, leave a bland self-satisfied life, face no major challenges, and have and feel nothing particularly profound.

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I saw seven films for the first time last week.

 

"The Bed Sitting Room" (1969)--Richard Lester comedy of London after WW III is intermittently amusing, occasionally "laugh out loud" funny.  But too often the film is just unfunny; the atmosphere, the situation, and the dogged insistence of the characters refusing to admit anything wrong about their attitudes becomes infuriating.  It kills the impulse to laugh.  Points are scored off organized Religion and Mao.  The best line has to do with Charlton Heston wrestling the Pope on BBC television.  Marty Feldman, Dudley Moore, and Peter Cook are the most consistently funny performers in the film.  Found on YouTube.

 

"War Gods of the Deep" (1965)--Jacques Tourneur's final film stars Vincent Price, Tab Hunter, and David Tomlinson in an AIP adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's "City Under the Sea".  Price does the narration and the mountains of exposition the script gives him.  Hunter and Tomlinson are acceptable horror film good guys.  Film is an odd mix of horror and absurdist humor (Tomlinson worries about a pet rooster all film long).  Good cinematography, good to so-so acting, and source material a muddled script can't destroy makes for a film worth seeing.  Saw on YT.

 

"The Big Store" (1941)--Lesser Marx Bros.   MGM film doesn't have the stranglehold of Plot that destroyed The Bros. spontaneity in"Go West" (1940) , and so one liners are scattered through the script.  Virginia O'Brien has a good number, a Swing version of "Rockabye Baby", and she and Groucho do a fast Jitterbug.  The silent comedy influenced finale is memorable, as a store is demolished by The Bros. on roller skates.  Film is better than its' reputation.

 

"The Rains of Ranchipur" (1955)--Starring Lana Turner, Richard Burton, and Oscar nominated Special Effects.  Talky remake of "The Rains Came" (1939) has Turner as the predatory Lady Esketh, who uses and then discards men like Kleenex, and  Burton as the saintly Dr. Safti, who is torn between his love for Turner and India.  All this is merely an excuse for Turner to model her Helen Rose wardrobe, throw off occasional waspish remarks, and watch Burton's impression of a robot.  Finally, the earthquake/flood hits--and it's worth waiting for.  Impressively well done, with state of the art Special Effects, sequence conclusively proves Twentieth-Century Foxs' need for waterproof makeup (watch Burton's makeup disappear, never to return--except for copious amounts of mascara).  Entertaining watch, if only to see the predecessor of some of the set-pieces from "Earthquake" (1974).  Found on archivedotorg.

 

"Dragonwyck" (1946)--Mankiewicz Gothic starring Gene Tierney and Vincent Price in 1840's New York.  Film is overlong but literate, and the secret had to be less detailed than in Anya Seton's novel, but film is entertaining nonetheless.  Tierney and Price do justice to their roles; Spring Byington adds a memorable cameo as Magda.  An ok watch. Saw on YT.

 

"Blood From The Mummy's Tomb" (1971)--Hammer Gothic about the desecration of a Cursed Egyptian princess's tomb.  Each member of the archaeological expedition takes an object from the tomb.  The daughter of the leader is subsequently possessed by the spirit of the princess, and tries to get the objects back for eternal life.  Film is very good.  Saw on YT.

 

"Son of Paleface" (1952)--Frank Tashlin directed sequel to "The Paleface" (1948), reteaming Bob Hope and Jane Russell, and adding Roy Rogers and Trigger to the mix.  Hope is the even more obnoxious son, who's gone West to collect his fathers' fortune--which he finds is nonexistent.  Russell is the lady bandit, Torch, and Rogers is the Federal man.  Trigger gets some of the best gags; the scene with Trigger and Hope in bed together is a classic of sorts.  Watch Hope's pipe when Russell caresses him during her song "What a Night For a Wingding".   Film repeatedly takes accurate aim at The Code, with verbal and sight gags.  Tashlin's tendency to use women as cartoon figures is shown in this early film, and Russell goes along with his parody of her image as a sex kitten.  Watch for cameo appearances.  Very enjoyable film.  

 

Favorite--Son of Paleface (1952).

 

Least consistent--The Big Store (1941).

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I saw eight films for the first time last week.

 

"Hidden Hollywood II" (1999)--Narrated by Joan Collins.  Film attempts to be a "That's Entertainment" for 20th-Century Fox, excepting the emphasis is on numbers that were deleted from released films and preservation of them.  Highlights include The Nicholas Bros., Alice Faye, and Betty Grable in "The Sheik of Araby" from "Tin Pan Alley" (1940).  The Code demanded the number be cut by half because too much flesh was seen.  Also the W.C. Fields segment with Margaret Dumont from "Tales of Manhattan" (1942) was included (this was the funniest thing in the film).  Recommended.

 

"Where Do We Go From Here?" (1945)--Delightful musical comedy/fantasy romp through American history.  Fred MacMurray is Bill, the 4F who wants to join the Army, but is assigned to running the official Scrap Parts yard. There, he breaks a Lamp, and frees a genie.  He tells the genie he wishes to join the Army--but doesn't mention which century's Army.  Joan Leslie and June Haver join MacMurray on his travels through history.  Score is by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin.  Highlight is Columbus' voyage to America, done as grand opera; MacMurray lightens the mood with a Gilbert and Sullivan style patter song.  Recommended.

 

"Fitzcarraldo" (1982)--Starring Klaus Kinski and Claudia Cardinale, directed by Werner Herzog.  Long, beautiful looking film about an opera obsessed man who plans to build an opera house in the Peruvian jungle.  The obsessions of the main character and the director melded as I watched the film.  The cinematography of Thomas Mauch captures some surreal images; a boat being hauled over a mountain is maybe the most memorable.

 

"The Pleasure Garden" (1925)--Alfred Hitchcock's first film is more memorable for the themes it establishes (Viewer as Voyeur, a lifelong filmic fascination with blondes, etc) than its' hackneyed plot.  On YouTube and archivedot.org.

 

"Aguirre, The Wrath of God" (1972)--Starring Klaus Kinski, produced, written, and directed by Werner Herzog.  Set in South America after the conquest of the Inca Empire, film is about Pizarro's search for El Dorado, The City of Gold.  Pizarro splits his expedition, and the smaller part has Aguirre (Kinski) as second-in-command.  Thomas Mauch's camera records the inevitable dwindling of the expedition, caused by greed within and forces without (Cannibals, poison arrows) and makes the disintegration beautiful.  Popol Vuh's music recalls a funeral march.  Unforgettable.  Are multiple copies on YT.

 

"Five" (1951)--Directed by Arch Oboler.  The first film I'm aware of to deal with the possible aftermath of WW III.  Five random survivors gather together, and tensions among them eventually explode.  Oboler does wonders with a good script and a low budget.  Special effects are used sparingly, and only to further the plot.  Good, little known film. Saw on archivedotorg.

 

"Atlantis, the Lost Continent" (1960)--George Pal directed film is good for a few laughs (the Ordeal of Fire and Water).  John Dall is an acceptable hero for the sword and sandal genre, some of the crowd scene footage is taken from "Quo Vadis" (1951)--I Think.  The special effects otherwise are acceptable, not great, but not Pal's worst.  An enjoyable time passer.

 

"The Vengeance of She" (1968)--Hammer Films enjoyably dimwitted sequel to "She" (1965).  The money that was spent on the 1965 film has been slashed in half, and film reflects that.  The movie is recommended for lovers of the silly.

 

Most Favorite--"Where Do We Go From Here?" (1945).

 

Least Favorite--"The Vengeance of She" (1968).

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I saw six movies this week.  The Handmaiden was the best one.  Beautifully shot and set, this story of a scheme by Korean criminals against a Japanese heiress is, if not as visceral as the same director's Oldboy, arguably as clever.  It's sort of what Crimson Peak would be like if Guillermo del Toro had something intelligent to say.  Kubo and the two strings is an interesting animated movie in medieval Japan.  It's well shot, and it's amusing.  But the contrast between the setting and the contemporary sense of humor is distracting.  Nana is a silent movie by Renoir based on the Zola novel.  As far as it goes, it's a competent adaptation, but frankly it shows few signs of Renoir's genius.  Mammame is an interesting film by ultra-prolific Chilean director Raul Ruiz, about an interesting and strange dance.  The Truth About Youth is a pre-code film and there's an interesting concept here.  Loretta Young decides she prefers not the callow youth who had been groomed for her, but his distinctly older patron.  Unfortunately, the story, in which this epiphany is complicated by aforementioned callow youth's rash marriage to a golddigging Myrna Loy, is dreadfully dull and with little spark and life.  Loy isn't really used, and the vices that made the same director's Room Service the most boring Marx Brothers comedy I've seen are even more apparent.  Finally, Stinking Heaven is an independent movie that meant little to me.  It starts off with a wedding between a woman and a much older man at this sort of drug rehabilitation commune set in the early nineties.  The wedding vows are devoid of real feeling, setting the stage for the nastiness that follows.  

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I saw three movies last week.  Did you ever think that the way to make Tokyo Story a better movie was to make Setsuko Hara's character an unconscionable witch?  Me neither.  But that is the idea behind The Trip to Bountiful which is a basically unimaginative version of something that's been done much better earlier.  Geraldine Page's performance is not very impressive, even in what was not a very impressive year for actresses.  The most impressive thing about Lassie Come Home was that Lassie was actually a girl.  All this time I had confused  her character with the Lad stories I was read to in grade school.  Aside from that, I suppose you have to be a dog person to really enjoy the movie.  Many critics found Tomorrowland disappointing, but I found it consistently imaginative and clever, even if the ending was a bit formulaic and didactic.

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I saw seven films for the first time last week.

 

"A Study in Terror" (1965)--This British film pits John Neville's Sherlock Holmes against Jack the Ripper.  Donald Houston's Dr. Watson is just a fool, but Robert Morley's Mycroft Holmes is a delight, whether he's arguing with brother Sherlock, smarting off to a police Inspector, or just blundering into a room.  The women are most decorative, and Desmond Dickinson's cinematography captures Victorian London.  Recommended.

 

"The Corpse Vanishes" (1942)--Monogram cheapie has Bela Lugosi and wife Elizabeth Russell in a scheme to keep her forever immortal.  Lugosi chews the scenery most entertainingly, Russell irritatingly.  Luana Walters screams (six times) and faints (five times) on cue.  Photographer Art Reed manages some interesting effects (car headlights that resemble eyes, etc).

 

"The Mummy" (1959)--Plush Hammer retelling of the 1932 classic.  Christopher Lee does well as Kharis/The Mummy, giving the monster human qualities.  Peter Cushing is good as one of the archaeologists who opens Princess Ananka's tomb.  Film takes its' time going through the plots' paces, then a lengthy flashback takes up the middle of the film, then film hurries to reach conclusion. An enjoyable watch.

 

"The Night Caller" (1965)--British zero-budget sci-fi film starts badly, then recovers.  Don't let Bad love theme that begins film scare you off.  Film's beginning is overly talky, but once the remains of a space meteorite are stored in the army base, events start to happen and film becomes interesting.

 

"Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" (1956)--Ray Harryhausen's special effects are the star of the film; they are more lifelike than human stars Hugh Marlowe (the military husband and scientist) and Joan Taylor (the Perfect Wife; all hell can be breaking loose around her, but her outfits are never wrinkled, they always match, and not a hair is ever out of place.  And the script praises her secretarial skills at least four times).  A fun watch.

 

"Message From Space" (1978)--Japanese ripoff of "Star Wars" (1977), "Battlestar Galactica" (1978), and a host of other movies tries to copy everything in Star Wars, down to James Earl Jones'  voice (copy is a terrible flop).  Film's special effects vary from inept to interesting to impressive.  Script copies elements from everywhere.  Two lines.

 

"I'll get you, my pretty!"

 

"Let's have a chicken run!"

MFS is mostly terrible, but never boring.

 

"King Kong vs. Godzilla" (1962)--Godzilla is awakened from the iceberg he's been asleep in.  King Kong is brought to Tokyo by a ratings mad television executive.  Before their final battle that includes their version of the Jitterbug, they stomp, terrorize, and destroy toy army bases, nuclear submarines, cities.  This Kong climbs one of Tokyo's tallest buildings while bellowing at a Japanese maiden who attempts to join Fay Wray as one of the immortal scream queens of the screen.  Film is fun, interrupted for irritating newscasts that debate if Godzilla is a dinosaur.

 

Most Favorite--"A Study in Terror" (1965).

 

Least Favorite--"The Night Caller" (1965),

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I saw six movies for the first time last week.  Porco Russo may be the least of the Miyazaki movies I've seen, but that's only by a very high standard.  It's certainly amusing, inventive and thoughtful enough on its own terms.  American Honey is a surprisingly epic account of a young adult as she enters the not so wonderful world of the precariat (in the case selling magazines under questionable purposes).  It actually works very well, and one should remember the star Sasha Lane, since the critics don't appear to be.  Possessed and The Story of Bernadette were watched as part of my slow working through oscar nominees.  Possessed is interesting, with Van Heflin good as Crawford's no account object of lust.  Crawford herself isn't quite as good:  there's the element of hysteria that come close to camp.  For that year I prefer her performance in Daisy Kenyon.  The Song isn't quite the piece of religious kitsch that it appears in retrospect, though even viewing Jennifer Jones indulgently isn't going to make one think she deserved an oscar nomination for that year.  And it's hard to avoid the thought that one wouldn't be as impressed with Bernadette's visions if she looked more like Agnes Moorhead.  Manoel on the Island of Marvels is actually a three episode Franco/Portuguese television production.  But its director Raoul Ruiz edited it into a slightly shorter feature film called Manoel's Destinies.  It's great, and shows that  you can make a fantasy film better than The Dark Knight on a hundreth of the budget.  Finally Knight and Day was a not particularly well reviewed or successful blockbuster starring Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise.  I suppose I should be more annoyed of the almost cartoonish way Cruise disposes of the many people fighting him.  But actually I find the charm of the two leads acceptable and some of the action scenes reasonably interesting

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I saw ten movies for the first time last week:

 

"Mysterious Island" (1961)--Based on the Jules Verne novel, the cast is better than usual (Joan Greenwood, Gary Merrill, Michael Craig), but the best parts of the film are Bernard Herrman's score and Ray Harryhausen's special effects, which vary from OK to spectacularly impressive.  A fun watch.  Recommended.

 

"It Came From Beneath The Sea" (1955)--Fine special effects by Harryhausen elevate film from a routine romantic triangle with confused scientists and the Navy ( will Faith Domergue choose Kenneth Tobey or Donald Curtis?) to a good sci-fi movie.  San Francisco is laid waste this time.  Very worth a watch.

 

"Robinson Crusoe On Mars" (1964)--Good sci-fi movie I had never heard of has two astronauts and a pet monkey in a spaceship crash on Mars.  One astronaut and a pet monkey survives.  They have to adapt to their strange new planet in order to survive.  Lawrence W. Butler did the special effects.  Winton C. Hoch did the interesting cinematography.  Nathan Van Cleave contributed an good score.  Little known film (to me) deserves a watch.

 

"It Came From Outer Space" (1953)--Jack Arnold directed this minor classic of Cold War paranoia.  Film is based on a Ray Bradbury story.  A thing crashes into the Arizona desert, and Richard Carlson is convinced it was a spaceship.  Girlfriend Barbara Rush just wants to get away from the crash site.  Obssessed by being Right, Carlson spouts off to a reporter, and is dismissed as a nut--until people start disappearing.  David S. Horsley did the special visual effects.  The eerie cinematography was done by Clifford Stine.  The creepy musical score is creepy, as are the POV shots from the alien.  Recommended.

 

"Conquest of Space" (1955)--Good special effects, a nice score by Van Cleave, and a production number from "Bring On The Girls" (1953) doesn't save this film from it's muddled script.  Film insists it's mankinds' duty to explore outer space, then turns on a dime and says it is sacrilege to explore outer space.  Film is just about cabin fever, and who will crack up first.  A boring disappointment.

 

"The Snow Creature" (1954)--I watched this loser to answer a trivia question.  Would-be thriller about the Yeti is notable for the title thing that looks like it has a case of the mange, wears a furry hat with earflaps, and oversized fur gloves.  Is also notable for the camera shots it copies from 1941's "The Wolf Man", and for victim #1 screaming without opening her mouth.  Films' saving grace is it's barely 70 minutes long.

 

"Sudden Fear" (1952)--Good Joan Crawford noir/thriller, with Jack Palance and Gloria Grahame as excellent support.  Crawford and Palance were nominated for Oscars, as were Charles B. Langs' shadowy cinematography and Sheila O'Brien's costumes.  Film requires major suspension of disbelief, especially when Joan tosses an apartment and gets away with it, but is overall a fun watch.  The Dictaphone scene probably got Joan her Oscar nomination.

 

"The Swimmer" (1968)--Allegorical Burt Lancaster film, directed by Frank Perry, based on the John Cheever story.  Lancaster swims home through a series of neighbors' pools.  At each stop, the viewer learns something about him, bad or good.  Film was dismissed when first released, now is an acting showcase for Lancaster, who was maybe the most naturalistic leading man in movies.  The movie is very good.  Recommended.

 

"Parnell" (1937)--Biography of the Irish political leader is drained of life by John Stahls' overly reverent direction and an uncertain performance by Clark Gable.  Myrna Loy does well as Katie O'Shea, Parnell's love at first sight.  Edna May Oliver's and Billie Burke's battles with each other provide sorely needed laughs and are the best things in the film.

 

"The Assassination of Trotsky" (1972)--I Hated this Joseph Losey film, which seeks to make what facts are known about Trotsky a question mark, and succeeded in confusing me and making its' subject motiveless.  I Hated the musical score, part of which sounds like a Siamese cat when its' tail has been stepped on, the pointless, enigmatic script, the unimpressive performance by Richard Burton, the inexpressive one by Alain Delon, and the bloody bullfighting sequence.  The murals by Diego Rivera are good.  This was one of the Medved bros. "50 Worst Films of All Time".  Does it qualify for that? No.  The 1000 worst films of all time--TAoT is in there somewhere.

 

Most Favorite--'Sudden Fear" (1952) and "Mysterious Island" (1961).

 

Least Favorite--"The Assassination of Trotsky" (1972).

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I saw three movies this week.  Unfortunately The Sunshine Boys is one of the worst movies I've seen this year.  The only joke for the first 40 minutes is that Walter Matthau's character is senile (and George Burns isn't in the best of shape mentally either).  This really doesn't work well 41 years later, and Matthau's character isn't particularly sympathetic either.  The original Babes in Toyland has problems as a fantasy.  Simply having the characters play Mother Goose characters themselves isn't fantastic in and of itself.  And I'm afraid I'm not really a Laurel and Hardy fan.  Only at the end does the movie show a childlike wonder in what a country like Toyland should actualy have.  The Curse of the Golden Flower is certainly the most elaborately decorated of Zhang Yimou's martial arts movies.  And Gong Li gives a good performance as the empress both treacherous and betrayed.  But the consensus is that it doesn't have the imagination of Hero or The House of Flying Daggers is generally correct.

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I saw five films this last week.

 

"Hatchet For The Honeymoon" (1970)--A Mario Bava film that is oddly almost bloodless after a splatter filled beginning.  Film is about a serial killer who picks brides, and is narrated by the killer.  Film takes a supernatural twist about halfway through. Film is well acted, with Bava's setpieces; a room filled with waltzing mannequins is especially creepy (it may have been the inspiration for one of the 20 some episodes of "Kolchak; The Night Stalker (1974)).  Color I saw was badly deteriorated--still, film is worth a watch, even with deteriorated color (It was shot in EastmanColor).

 

"The Great Ziegfeld" (1936)--Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Luise Rainer.  Mammoth musical biography of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. is carried by Powell's wit and charm in the title role, and the elaborate musical numbers.  Loy doesn't appear until more than two hours have passed, and then has next to nothing to do.  Rainer is charming when singing or being calculatingly coy when negotiating her contract, irritating when throwing temper tantrums.  Her telephone scene must have won her the Oscar--it's manipulative but effective.  Virginia Bruce, Fanny Brice, and Ray Bolger are all notable in support.

 

"Song of the Thin Man" (1947)--Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Asta.  The last of the "Thin Man" films doesn't have the punch of its' predecessors, but is still an enjoyable watch.  Film takes place on a gambling boat, there is a murder, and complications ensue.  Dean Stockwell is only somewhat irritating, Gloria Grahame makes a tempting jazz singer, Marie Windsor is amusing in a minor role, and jazz slang permeates the film.  A fun, if predictable, watch.

 

"Circus World" (1964)--Starring John Wayne, Claudia Cardinale, and Rita Hayworth.  Samuel Bronston spectacular is slow moving, but does deliver on spectacle, with lots of circus acts, a ship capsizing, and a fire.  Mixed between the spectacle are two love stories.  Wayne is naturalistic and enjoyable, Cardinale is fiery tempered, and Hayworth is touching, in a supporting role; she seems unsure of everything, and not quite "there".  The Pinewood restoration I saw on YT was taken down less than 24 hours after I'd seen it; there are still two copies on YT, but I don't know what shape they're in.

 

"The Fabulous World of Jules Verne" (1958)--Forget Maltin's rating.  This Czech film is easily one of the best films I've seen this past year.  Based on Verne's "The Deadly Invention", this film by Karel Zeman is a lively romp through the works of Jules Verne, with live action and animation based on Victorian Era lithographs seamlessly integrated.  The underwater scenes and takeoffs of 1890's movies are priceless.  Watch for the roller-skating camels.  A charming film.  I loved it.  I saw it on archive.org.

 

Most Favorite--"The Fabulous World of Jules Verne" (1958).

 

Least Favorite--"Hatchet For The Honeymoon" (1970).

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I saw three movies.  La La Land has many virtues.  Emma Stone is very good, the first movie numbers are very good, and the ending is keeping with the inspiration of Jacques Demy.  I suppose I'm supposing that the movie could have been a bit better, there could have been one more dance number, and the relationship between Stone and Gosling could have been a little deeper.  The Whales of August probably didn't deserve its oscar nomination for Anne Sothern.  It's not a bad movie, but it's also not a very deep one.  But it is nice to see Bette Davis, Lilian Gish and Vincent Price for one last time.  Travels with my Aunt is also not a particularly profound film, and it involves Maggie Smith playing the mother to an actor nine years older than himself.  It makes more sense when one learns that role was originally for Katharine Hepburn.  But the movie does have some of the Cukor charm.

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I saw five movies for the first time this past week:

 

"The Royal Family of Broadway" (1930)--An amusing farce with Ina Claire and Fredric March, that was based on the Barrymore family.  Fredric March admitted that he based his performance on John Barrymore.  March is hilarious, whether he's giving his opinion of movie directors, or sucking in his stomach because his tights are too tight.  Claire is the semi-sane member of the family.  The camera never moves--the humor is almost all verbal.

 

"Daisy Kenyon" (1947)--Otto Preminger version of a Joan Crawford "woman's picture".  Noirish melodrama with Crawford, Dana Andrews and Henry Fonda as three desperately unhappy people.  Themes of child abuse, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, racial prejudice are introduced, and none are resolved.  Very dark, fascinating film implies much more than it shows.

 

"Marianne" (1929)--Marion Davies musical comedy where Lawrence Gray handles most of the music, Davies the comedy.  Film is set in 1919 France.  Davies is most memorable doing impressions; she successfully transitioned to sound with this movie.  Her versions of Maurice Chevalier and Sarah Bernhardt are the films' highlights, along with a duet she and Gray share, "Just You, Just Me".  A fun watch.

 

"The Pleasure of His Company" (1961)--Expert cast (Fred Astaire, Debbie Reynolds, Lilli Palmer) makes this wordy Samuel Taylor farce work.  An air of melancholy hangs over the film and stifles the laughter.  Tab Hunter shows a flair for comedy.  Film should have been much better; as it is, it's worth a watch.

 

"Two Girls and a Sailor" (1944)--WW II musical that concentrates on the quality and quantity of music instead of a plot.  Time capsule of 1940's music is very worth watching.  Harry James, Lena Horne, Gracie Allen, Gloria DeHaven, and many more are spotlighted in this  MGM musical.  A fun watch.

 

Favorite--Marianne (1929).

 

Least Favorite--The Pleasure of His Company (1961).  But all are worth a watch.

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I saw three movies.  La La Land has many virtues.  Emma Stone is very good, the first movie numbers are very good, and the ending is keeping with the inspiration of Jacques Demy.  I suppose I'm supposing that the movie could have been a bit better, there could have been one more dance number, and the relationship between Stone and Gosling could have been a little deeper.  The Whales of August probably didn't deserve its oscar nomination for Anne Sothern.  It's not a bad movie, but it's also not a very deep one.  But it is nice to see Bette Davis, Lilian Gish and Vincent Price for one last time.  Travels with my Aunt is also not a particularly deep film, and it involves Maggie Smith playing the mother to an actor nine years older than himself.  It makes more sense when one learns that role was originally for Katharine Hepburn.  But the movie does have some of the Cukor charm.

 

Skimpole, based on your comments, I suggest you see this film:

 

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now that they've finally aired SUDDEN FEAR on TCM, all that remains of Joan's ouvre to be shown are DAISY KENYON and- the Holy Grail- LETTY LYNTON.

 

the DAISY KENYON DVD has a lot of great bonuses (rare for a Fox film) and Robert Osborne even shows up and gushes that the film is one of his favorites and is rather a touch more candid in the interview than he is on TCM.

 

DAISY was the film where I finally realized what a good actor DANA ANDREWS is.

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I saw five movies in the first week of the year.  Train to Busan is a perfectly competent Korean thriller about a train attacked by the equivalent of zombies.  Supposedly it demonstrates the value of altruism over selfishness.  One might cynically suggest that more of the passengers would have survived, had the characters not put so much effort trying to rescue the two most sympathetic characters (an adorable little girl and a very pregnant woman). I would also point out that is a movie whose "pleasure" consists of watching large numbers of people die, including a whole carriage full of people in a way that is both contrived and manipulative.  Green Room in which the sympathetic characters are menaced by neo-Nazis has similar problems.  Patrick Stewart takes an understated role as the villain.  But one can't help point out that there are several egregious problems with his strategy.  And seeing whether any of the five, later six, sympathetic characters survive is a dubious enterprise.  The oddest thing about Heaven Can Wait is that is received so much acclaim.  While certainly a nice little comedy, that's largely because it was based on a nice little comedy made 37 years earlier.  The cast does a creditable job.  James Mason, playing the Claude Rains role, does the best.  One suspects it got so many nominations was because Beatty was a big star.  Which makes me think that The Alamo, notwithstanding its Best Picture nomination, must be a much more irritating movie.  In Jackson Heights is a fine documentary about the diverse Queens neighborhood.  The main problem is that the subtitles (much of the talk is in Spanish) are often against a white background.  One wonders why both TCM didn't play Wiseman in their month of documentaries   Finally Captain America:  the Winter Soldier is actually an effective action movie, with Chris Evans doing a good job as the patriot while Robert Redford is an effective villain.  The sequences are very fluid and it's also witty as well.

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I saw seven movies for the first time last week:

 

"Harriet Craig" (1950)--Joan Crawford is terrifying as the title character who is married to her house, its' perfection, the furnishings, and her husband, in that order.  Wendell Corey is the husband, Lucile Watson is the boss' wife, who is the only one to see through Harriets' schemes.  Ellen Corby is a stuttering maid.  Crawford wears one of the most severe hairstyles I've ever seen.  Unflattering is a wild understatement. Good remake of the 1936 film "Craig's Wife".

 

"Untamed Frontier" (1952)--Routine western is elevated by Joseph Cotten, Shelley Winters, and an above average supporting cast.  Good thing, because the script is an unmotivated mishmash.  Suzan Ball is noteworthy as Lottie, a blackmailing saloon singer.  Film is still a chore to sit through.

 

"Attack of the Crab Monsters" (1957)--Script has interesting ideas that director Roger Corman carries out poorly, especially the appearance of the title creatures, and the thought that nuclear bombs cause  genetic mutations.  Saw a very good British print on archive. org--was better than anything on YT.

 

"S.O.S. Iceberg" (1933)--Semi-documentary oddity shot in Greenland and Iceland has spectacular footage of icebergs being formed  and is visually majestic.  The visuals are more interesting than the routine love story between Rod La Rocque and Leni Reifenstahl (in her only appearance in an American film).  Tay Garnett directed.

 

"Modesty Blaise" (1966)--Joseph Losey directed spy spoof based on the British comic strip never really gets off the ground, thanks to a script that misses opportunity after opportunity for satire.  Dirk Bogarde, as the archvillain, is the funniest person in the film.  Monica Vitti and Terence Stamp do their best.  Film is worth seeing for the visuals, some of which define psychedelic.

 

"Journey to Italy" (1954)--Roberto Rossellini film starring Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders.  A look at the destruction of a marriage, plus a hefty side of Italian history (the wife's a museum nut).  Interesting film sounds like the script was more than partially improvised.  I saw the restored, English language version on YouTube.

 

"Gymkata" (1985)--Forget the plot, which has holes the Titanic could easily get through, and watch Kurt Thomas and company in this martial arts/gymnastics film; they are the show.  One of the silliest films of the 80's at least delivers on the martial arts/gymnastics elements.

 

Most Favorite--"Harriet Craig" (1950).

 

Least Favorite--"Untamed Frontier" (1952).  

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I saw four movies this week. City of Pirates is certainly a strange movie, since it doesn't really have either pirates or a city.  It's more a strange, fantasy surrealistic movie.  It's kind of hard to describe, so I'll have the Lincoln Centre do it in its recent description for its Ruiz retrospective:  "Propelled by a ferocious creative energy and blending folk legends, surrealist poetry, children’s adventure stories, and Hollywood horror movies, City of Pirates follows a decidedly nonlinear narrative about a sleepwalking virgin (Anne Alvaro), a ten-year-old boy (Melvil Poupaud) who claims to have raped and murdered his entire family, and the lone inhabitant of an island castle (Hughes Quester) who shares his body with an imaginary sister. Funny, frightening, and enigmatic, City of Pirates is like a cross between Peter Pan and Friday the 13th told with a wildly baroque visual style that suggests both Georges Méliès and Sergio Leone."  Clearly not for everyone, I found it worth watching.  Escape from Alcatraz is a good, skillful prison escape movie Siegel and Eastwood are highly competent, though the  movie is not in the class of A Man Escaped or Le Trou.  Johnny Belinda doesn't say anything particularly profound about Nova Scotia, where it takes place.  As it happens I watched it because Jane Wyman won the oscar for it.  I honestly didn't think I would be very impressed by it, and I wasn't.  Wyman basically looks pretty and do sign language competently.  Lew Ayres gives a more interesting performance, though I wouldn't consider it oscar worthy.  After Pulp Fiction came out, several unimaginative filmmakers made gory copies with black humour for a few years until critics got tried of it.  What distinguishes Romeo is Bleeding is that it was made before Pulp Fiction came out.  As Jonathan Rosenbaum points out, this isn't a movie where style replaces content.  It's one where stylishness replaces style.  There's some unusual camera work and misc-en-scene.  But the dialogue, characters and situations are indifferent.  It's perhaps not surprising that Oldman's crooked cop isn't too bright.  But the villains he's fighting aren't much smarter.  The failure to really build the relationship between Oldman and Annabella Sciorra is particularly damaging.

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I saw six movies for the first time last week:

 

"Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?" (1972)--Good take on "Hansel and Gretel" is set in 1920's England, with Shelley Winters as the mentally ill widow who tries to contact her dead daughter during nightly seances.  Her life intersects with a pair of orphans--the girl looks just like her daughter did.  Winters and Ralph Richardson (he's the spiritualist) are excellent.  A good watch.

 

"Horror Castle", aka "The Virgin of Nuremberg" (1965)--Horror film has a routine screenplay, until last thirty minutes of film, when plot twist after plot twist hits.  Christopher Lee, as a seemingly sinister servant, and Rossana Podesta, as the damsel in distress who thinks for herself and fights back instead of screaming, rolling her eyes, and fainting are standouts.  Well worth the watch.

 

"The Crusades" (1935)--Cecil B. DeMille's comic book version focuses on Richard the LionHearted, (Henry Wilcoxon, who plays him as a dimwitted thug), his eventual wife Berengaria (Loretta Young, who gives the best performance in the film) and Saladin (Ian Keith, who is also fine in his small role).  Film is all talk the first hour, finally gets moving the second hour with some fine spectacle (the siege of Acre).  Film is overlaid with self-righteous piety, presumably to please The Code.  It  got on my nerves.

 

"She" (1925)--British silent version of the H. Rider Haggard tale.  Silent is more faithful to Haggard's story (he wrote the titles), but just as funny.  Film is notable for the uneven to nonexistent application of makeup to the cannibals who guard She, and a near nude scene where She wears something filmy.  For being 2000 years old, She is very well preserved.  See the 94 minute British restoration on YouTube-- the version on archive.org is only 56 minutes long, and is in much worse shape.

 

"Carry On Cleo" (1965)--Takeoff on the 1963 "Cleopatra" hits the mark more often than it misses--best seen right after the Taylor-Burton Cleopatra, to see what scenes/aspects specifically are being satirized.  Film scores direct hits on the carpet-unrolling scene, and many others.

 

"Carry On...Up The Khyber (1968)--Spoof on 'Zulu" (1964) and other films about English Colonialism is hysterically funny at it's best, and is never less than amusing.  The parade of one liners, puns, film references (Bungdit Din) and parodies (Indian princess betrays her people for the British officer she loves, etc.) never stops for breath.  Last thirty minutes is a classic of crazy comedy.  Film absolutely glories in the stupidity of its characters.  I loved it.

 

Most Favorite--"Carry On...Up The Khyber" (1968).

 

Least Favorite--"The Crusades" (1935).

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This week I saw five movies.  A Patch of Blue never struck me as a promising idea for a movie, with its blind girl falling for Sidney Poitier (because no white woman would if she actually saw him?).   The element of liberal self-congratulation is all too evident.  In retrospect the contrast between sober Poitier and white trash Shelly Winters is counter-productive.  It wasn't poor white women of questionable morals that were holding African-Americans back in 1965.  It also emphasizes racism as a vice of the stupid, instead of an ideology encouraged by the powerful.  Poitier is creditable, Hartmann less so.  Princess Tam-Tam is a more interesting movie:  Josephine Baker does a nice job, before the white couple get back together. Destination Tokyo continues my so far strictly limited search for great 1943 movies.  Some of the submarine action scenes are good.  On the other hand the army bonding, morale and human interest elements are generally banal.  And although it doesn't go full racist (at one point the crew agree they are fighting for Japanese children), saying Japan doesn't have a word for married love will insult anyone who has seen movies by Ozu, Mizoguchi and Naruse.  Fallen Angel is a good Preminger movie, with its thoroughly competent direction, and its ending, so different from the moralism one might expect from noirs.  Pacific Rim has the virtues and vices of a Guilermo del Toro film.  It has an interesting misc en scene.  The concept is interesting, though having Godzilla like monsters destroying major cities is not, post 9/11, in the best of taste.  The main characters do a lot of unimaginative war movie guff about lost loved ones, potential rivalries, growing love affairs, and self sacrificing rhetoric.  Also there's a lot of CGI slow motion special effects that left me indifferent.  More interesting are two quarreling scientists and their disturbing speculations, as well as a good final shot.

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