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Freaks  (1932)  Dir: Tod Browning - A lovestruck dwarf (Harry Earles) falls for a beautiful circus performer (Olga Baclanova) who's only interested in his money. An overheated melodrama that's (perhaps unjustly) lumped in with horror films due to the casting of actual sideshow performers in supporting roles. The ending as well tends toward the horrific, even if it's a bit too silly. Wally Ford is good as a clown who treats the "freaks" with respect, as is Leila Hyams as his love interest.

The DVD includes an hour-long documentary about the making of the film and its legacy. It was interesting to hear that Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow were originally intended for the Baclanova and Hyams roles, respectively, and that Victor McLaglen was intended to play the strong man eventually played by Henry Victor.  (8/10)

Source: Warner DVD, part of the TCM Greatest Classic Films - Horror set

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Cat People (1942) Dir: Jacques Tourneur - Atmospheric horror with Simone Simon as a Serbian immigrant who marries American Kent Smith. It's only after the marriage that Simon informs her husband that she's cursed to turn into a man-eating cat if she has sex. With Jane Randolph, Tom Conway, Jack Holt, Alan Napier, and Elizabeth Russell. This is perhaps too subtle and low key for most horror fans, especially those who are expected a Wolf Man-style creature feature, which I was when I first saw this as a kid. Over time I've grown to appreciate the artistry involved, and while I like producer Val Lewton's I Walked with a Zombie and The 7th Victim more, I still rank this among the best horror released in the 1940's.   (7/10)

One of the bonus features on the disc is the documentary Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows (2007), which I believe has played on TCM in the past (they're a credited co-producer). This was the first time I watched it, and enjoyed the information imparted.

Source: Criterion Blu-ray

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The Mystic Hour (1933) aka At Twelve Midnight (1934) aka (as it is listed on Amazon Prime) 12 at Midnight (1934)

The storyline of this is quite good for a budget mystery movie:

A fleeing robber shoots a policeman. A citizen gives chase by car and then over rooftops. The pursuit ends in the bedroom of a sassy young heiress. Heiress falls for citizen, citizen falls for heiress.

Robber worked for a mastermind called: "The Fox". The Fox uses the gimmick of warning his victims in advance. Part of his reason for doing that is to generate clients for his day job as head of a detective/protection agency. 

The Fox's next target is the jewels of an older lady. She is by coincidence the aunt of the citizen in the opening adventure. He lays a trap and nearly catches them. He fails but does foil the robbery.

The romance between heiress and citizen quickly advances to setting a wedding date. The heiress' guardian can not allow her to marry because it would mean handing over management of her finances and he has been stealing from her trust fund. The guardian hatches the idea to kidnap the citizen under the guise that it is  revenge by The Fox.

There is an interesting twist to the kidnapping also but it would be a spoiler to reveal it here.


I am sorry to say that this movie is not as good as the story deserves. The heiress (Lucille Powers) is suitably young and pretty while the citizen (Charles Hutchison) is late-middle-aged with a paunch and a second chin. Montagu Love is quite acceptable as the primary villain but Charles Middleton plays a very flat secondary. To say that all other performances are perfunctory is almost a kindness.

The cinematography is minimal. There are no transitions -- representative of this is at the end: there is a chase through the elegant landscaping outside a house and then they are on an unpaved path through the scrub at the top of a cliff by the sea. Most scenes have no camera movement of any kind. The most camerawork comes into play is at the beginning when the camera is overcranked during the chase scene as if it was for a silent serial.

I am glad that I watched this movie. I recommend it as more of a curiosity with interesting aspects rather than as happy escapism.

6/10

I should note that the print available on Amazon Prime seems to be missing the final scene. 
 

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The Hidden Fortress (1958)

This is one of those films that I didn't truly appreciate until the very end. During the film, I thought it was okay, but not great. When it ended, I was able to reflect on all of the absurdity that took place. Yojimbo and Sanjuro are still my top two, but this was a weird and wild ride from beginning to end. I think I'm going to watch Rashomon next, because I missed its previous showing on TCM. Then, I have a choice to make between Drunken Angel, Seven Samurai, and Red Beard before they expire in a few days. Any recommendations? 

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5 hours ago, YourManGodfrey said:

The Hidden Fortress (1958) I think I'm going to watch Rashomon next, because I missed its previous showing on TCM. Then, I have a choice to make between Drunken Angel, Seven Samurai, and Red Beard before they expire in a few days. Any recommendations? 

You cannot go wrong with either RASHOMAN or SEVEN SAMURAI; I don't know if it's going to be raining where you live soon, but both are LITERALLY great "rainy day" viewings- both are set (AT TIMES) during RAINSTORMS and I saw both in a heavy downpour on two separate occasions.

RASHOMAN has a particular resonance in the modern world though- one story, many different recollections and interpretations of what we saw.

if you're looking to branch out from KURASAWA, i saw (I think it was on AMAZON PRIME? or maybe YOUTUBE) where ONIBABA is available- it's a  JAPANESE PERIOD HORROR film that is VERY MOODY and largely silent and visual and also interweaves a fair amount of dark humor into the story. again, it's not KURASAWA, but it is another intriguing look into JAPAN.

PS- i went to amazon prime to see if i could rent RAN (1985) and it is temporarily unavailable.

pss- what the Hell? i'll live on the edge and post the whole thing here:

 

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17 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

Freaks  (1932)  Dir: Tod Browning - A lovestruck dwarf (Harry Earles) falls for a beautiful circus performer (Olga Baclanova) who's only interested in his money. An overheated melodrama that's (perhaps unjustly) lumped in with horror films due to the casting of actual sideshow performers in supporting roles. The ending as well tends toward the horrific, even if it's a bit too silly. Wally Ford is good as a clown who treats the "freaks" with respect, as is Leila Hyams as his love interest.

The DVD includes an hour-long documentary about the making of the film and its legacy. It was interesting to hear that Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow were originally intended for the Baclanova and Hyams roles, respectively, and that Victor McLaglen was intended to play the strong man eventually played by Henry Victor.  (8/10)

I own the DVD as well, 7/10. I have to put on the subtitles since Harry Earles is very hard to understand with his high pitched German accent. 

The documentary is even more fascinating, the arm less girl Frances O'Connor was pretty enough to be a Hollywood starlet if she had arms.

c1930 FRANCES O' CONNOR armless CIRCUS SIDESHOW freak RPPC w ...

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The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

Every time I see this picture, I dread the scene with the diving bell.  Now it has been my experience that most times a diving bell is introduced, the inevitable is about to happen and everyone in that capsule is a goner.  Hope your papers are in order, Cese, because you ain't coming back, buddy. 

Asked if he knows how he's going to capture the monster,  the professor claims he doesn't know. Don't you think that would be a top priority instead of squeezing into a diving bell to get a look at the thing?

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1 hour ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

I own the DVD as well, 7/10. I have to put on the subtitles since Harry Earles is very hard to understand with his high pitched German accent. 

The documentary is even more fascinating, the arm less girl Frances O'Connor was pretty enough to be a Hollywood starlet if she had arms.

Daisy & Violet Hilton the conjoined twins were also quite pretty and made a B movie of their own- 1952's CHAINED FOR LIFE.

I like this movie because of the inclusion of so many famous circus performers, some their only appearance on film. 

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) YouTube

This was the first of two versions of the Stevenson story released in 1920. The second, with Sheldon Lewis in the title role, is held in a private collection, although there is a clip on YouTube.

This is an interesting spin on the Robert Louis Stevenson story. I say “spin” because the movie has little in common with the book, other than utilizing the main theme of each person having a darker side. The film introduces two characters who do not appear in the book: Millicent Carew (the nice girl who loves Jekyll) and Gina, a dance-hall girl, whom Hyde fancies. The characters of Millicent and Gina would re-appear in subsequent film versions, with different names. Of course, the big star here is Barrymore, who does an exceptional job transforming into Hyde. In one scene, he actually throws himself into the air, landing on his back. His Jekyll is handsome and gentlemanly, and cares for the less fortunate.

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His Hyde is ugly, hunched over, and lusts after women (which he most definitely does not do in the original story).

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His misshapen head is a bit jarring, but the makeup is a lot easier to swallow than Fredric March’s ape-like alter ego. In one of his earliest roles, Louis Wolheim plays the dance hall owner who gladly foists Gina (Nita Naldi) onto Hyde. Naldi shows her sex appeal early on.

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Later, after Hyde has used her, we see her as a completely wasted woman.

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This may be the only surviving film work of lovely Martha Mansfield, who portrayed Millicent. She was only 20 when she made this film.

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Mansfield had one of the most tragic and horrible deaths in film history. On Thanksgiving Day in 1923, she was in Breckenridge Park in Texas filming The Warrens of Virginia. After completing a scene, she went to her limousine to relax. Moments later, she ran screaming from the car, her body on fire. Members of the crew, as well as her one of her co-stars, Wilfred Lytell, tried to extinguish the flames. Initially, reports indicated her injuries were not serious, but by the next day, the young beauty was dead. The probable cause of the fire was a lit match, which ignited the costume she had been wearing. Her funeral service in New York was attended by John Barrymore, as well as Mae Marsh, Samuel Goldwyn, Betty Compson, Gloria Swanson, and hundreds of other celebrities. Over a month later, The San Francisco Examiner published an exploitation story entitled “How Martha Mansfield Was Burned to Death.” The article showcased photographs of Mansfield, including one in which she was wearing a summer negligee. There was also a drawing of what the actress may have looked like while her dress was aflame – an extremely cruel depiction. The anonymous writer quoted two “eyewitnesses” named P. L. Mannen and J. W. Miller, who were described as businessmen from San Antonio. The two men claimed they had passed Mansfield’s car, had peered him, and noticed her trying to light a cigarette, which was unsuccessful. A few moments later, as the actress began running from her car in agony, both men took part in trying to extinguish the flames. No mention was made of Lytell. Manning claimed the crew used his overcoat in lieu of a stretcher. “We were eyewitnesses to the tragedy and the first to reach Miss Mansfield and smother the flames with our overcoats,” said Mannen. “She lay there on the ground and let us tear the burnt clothes off of her, to which the skin frequently adhered, without a moan. Only when we carried her to the limousine on my overcoat did she show any signs of breaking down. Then she sobbed a little.” The story may or may not be true, but I could not find any other contemporaneous source to corroborate it. The writer concluded the article by nonchalantly stating “fortunately, Miss Mansfield had finished her scenes in the play before her tragic death.”

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7 hours ago, YourManGodfrey said:

The Hidden Fortress (1958)

This is one of those films that I didn't truly appreciate until the very end. During the film, I thought it was okay, but not great. When it ended, I was able to reflect on all of the absurdity that took place. Yojimbo and Sanjuro are still my top two, but this was a weird and wild ride from beginning to end. I think I'm going to watch Rashomon next, because I missed its previous showing on TCM. Then, I have a choice to make between Drunken Angel, Seven Samurai, and Red Beard before they expire in a few days. Any recommendations? 

Seven Samurai is an all-time classic, but it's very long, so be prepared. I'd watch Rashomon and then Drunken Angel. I like Red Beard a lot (I'm a Kurosawa fan), but it too is very long without the action elements of Seven Samurai. I'd also highly recommend Stray DogHigh & LowThrone of Blood (a samurai retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth), and The Bad Sleep Well. I think all of Kurosawa's films are worth seeing but those are my favorites.

As far as other Japanese films, besides Onibaba which I also recommend, I'd suggest Harakiri (1962), Kwaidan (1964), Sword of Doom (1966), and The Burmese Harp (1956). Other major filmmakers include Yasujiro Ozu (Tokyo Story and Late Spring are his most accessible), Hiroshi Teshigahara (Woman in the Dunes and The Face of Another), and Kenji Mizoguchi (Sansho the Bailiff and Ugetsu), but their styles can be hard to get into for western viewers. 

If you tend more toward action oriented stuff, I'd recommend the Zatoichi series, the Lone Wolf & Cub series, and the two Lady Snowblood films.

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On 4/4/2020 at 12:16 AM, YourManGodfrey said:

SansFin sold me on The Hidden Fortress, so that's next. TCM needs more day-long Japanese film days. 

It makes me happy that you indulged and that you liked it. I believe that you might enjoy it more when you watch it again at some future date because you will not be as distracted by its oddities.

My suggestion for viewing order if you simply must watch them within a time limit: Seven Samurai (1954), Red Beard (1965) and then Drunken Angel (1948). This is solely due to preference for the scope of a story.

My recommendation for a non-Kurosawa movie beyond those viewings is: Kuroneko (1968).

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I find it an intensely personal story as only Japanese cinema can provide.

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5 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

pss- what the Hell? i'll live on the edge and post the whole thing here:

I had been looking to branch out into other Japanese films, but I was having a hard time finding them for free/included in a subscription that I already have. I already started to watch Rashomon and I am loving Mifune's performance so far. 

 

2 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

Seven Samurai is an all-time classic, but it's very long, so be prepared. I'd watch Rashomon and then Drunken Angel. I like Red Beard a lot (I'm a Kurosawa fan), but it too is very long without the action elements of Seven Samurai. I'd also highly recommend Stray DogHigh & LowThrone of Blood (a samurai retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth), and The Bad Sleep Well. I think all of Kurosawa's films are worth seeing but those are my favorites.

The final three that you listed are going to be on TCM until May, so I plan on watching those. The others expire tomorrow, and two are very long, so I wanted to try to at least watch two or three of them. I've already started Rashomon and Drunken Angel is an early Mifune film, so I'd like to check that one out. I'll probably go with Seven Samurai since its probably his most famous film and a little bit shorter. Thank you for the other Japanese film recommendations, too. I'll try to find those and check them out when I can. 

 

2 hours ago, SansFin said:

It makes me happy that you indulged and that you liked it. I believe that you might enjoy it more when you watch it again at some future date because you will not be as distracted by its oddities.

My suggestion for viewing order if you simply must watch them within a time limit: Seven Samurai (1954), Red Beard (1965) and then Drunken Angel (1948). This is solely due to preference for the scope of a story.

My recommendation for a non-Kurosawa movie beyond those viewings is: Kuroneko (1968).

The constant bickering between the two peasants was somewhat off putting until I realized how absurd it was and learned to enjoy it. Both of them are great actors. I think I might try to save Red Beard for last. The film looks really intriguing, but I struggle with very long films. I believe TCM showed Kuroneko at some point, but I missed it. I'd like to watch that at some point. Japanese cinema is becoming one of my favorite style of foreign films.  

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The_Pillow_Book_poster.jpg

The Pillow Book  (1996) Dir: Peter Greenaway - Visually complex arthouse erotic drama about a Japanese model (Vivian Wu) with an obsession for calligraphy who takes a number of lovers in search of one who can please her both physically and with their writing. The film hops back and forth from flashbacks to events that shaped the young woman's unique psyche, and to her contemporary search for the perfect mate. With Ewan McGregor as one such lover, and Ken Ogata as her father. A number of camera tricks are employed (perhaps a bit too many), and the film frame is usually loaded with information like written words in several languages, widescreen images superimposed with full-frame shots, sometimes smaller images that float around the screen, each vying for the eye. The audio is also complicated, with western classical, Japanese music, and mid-90's rock alternating from moment to moment. It's all a bit much, but will appeal to some more than it did me. Certain fans of Ewan McGregor may enjoy seeing "all" of him several times. The film is fairly explicit, and earned an NC-17 rating when released.     (6/10)

Source: The Criterion Channel

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Yesterday rewatched for numerous time THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (l97l) & today BADLANDS (l974)

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On 4/6/2020 at 5:58 AM, LornaHansonForbes said:

BEACH MOVIES and WOMEN IN PRISON are two genres that have their fans, so I tip my cap to there being some something there, but on a personal level- nah.

Omg. I love both of these! 

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The Perfect Specimen (1937)

Lightweight amiable screwball comedy with a game cast bringing some fun to a spotty script.

Michael Curtiz directed the material, a reverse on It Happened One Night, with Errol Flynn as the title character who lives a sheltered life on a fabulously rich estate until he is introduced to the real world by breezy Joan Blondell who meets him by literally crashing her car through the fence (lucky thing it was made of wood) to his estate. Once in the outside world Flynn rather enjoys it all, speeding in a car, getting into a boxing ring and, of course, falling in love.

While the story may be nothing special Flynn's first attempt at a screen comedy is likeable, with Errol charming and engaging. Warner Brothers made a point of surrounding their star with a seasoned cast of comedy pros. Aside from Blondell there's May Robson as Flynn's domineering, cantankerous grandmother, Edward Everett Horton as her secretary, Hugh Herbert in a typical Hugh Herbert eccentric performance and, in a particular highlight, Allen Jenkins as a truck driving pug who makes the mistake of getting into a fight with Flynn.

Flynn at one point strips down to boxing shorts for a brief exhibition in the ring with a boxer before a cheering crowd. While it's obvious that Errol is doubled in the long shots, this scene can be seen as something of a forerunner to one of his best films and performances five years later in Gentleman Jim.

The Perfect Specimen remains the sole Flynn film made at Warner Brothers that is not available on DVD due to rights issues. Likewise, for the same reason, it is the one film from the actor's home studio that is not shown on TCM. There are, however, copies of this film floating around on the internet, if one searches for them hard enough. The copy circulating, by the way, has a TCM logo periodically appearing in the bottom right corner showing that the film was shown at least once in the past on the channel.

Flynn fans will probably be pleased with this minor but affable little comedy. One day, if the rights issues are ever resolved, it would be nice to see a restored image of this film become available on DVD, most likely on the Warners Archive label.

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2.5 out of 4

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5 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

 

The Pillow Book  (1996) Dir: Peter Greenaway - Visually complex arthouse erotic drama about a Japanese model (Vivian Wu) with an obsession for calligraphy who takes a number of lovers in search of one who can please her both physically and with their writing.

This is one of my favorite movies of the 1990s. The visual aesthetics are amazing and the story is very compelling. 

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3 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

 

Lol. I like “The Ink Spots” too. They show up often on the Sirius 50s station. 

I may own both a Gidget collection and a Frankie & Annette one that has ALL the beach party movies, all 8 of them (At least I think that’s how many they are). Then there are all my other beach movies that aren’t part of a boxed set. 

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On 4/7/2020 at 3:30 AM, YourManGodfrey said:

The Hidden Fortress (1958)

This is one of those films that I didn't truly appreciate until the very end. During the film, I thought it was okay, but not great. When it ended, I was able to reflect on all of the absurdity that took place. Yojimbo and Sanjuro are still my top two, but this was a weird and wild ride from beginning to end. I think I'm going to watch Rashomon next, because I missed its previous showing on TCM. Then, I have a choice to make between Drunken Angel, Seven Samurai, and Red Beard before they expire in a few days. Any recommendations? 

Seven Samurai, if nothing else.  Three hours long, and (once the samurai start arriving in town, after a slow fifteen or twenty minute setup), literally TWO HOURS  will go by before it even occurs to you to look at your watch.

After that, you're free to do Red Beard and Drunken Angel back to back, as two examples of Old Benign/Cynical Kurosawa Doctors.

Outside of TCM, Throne of Blood should be on the list somewhere, and if you can't get Ran for color Kurosawa, look up Dreams now that it's got a Criterion:

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Drunken Angel (1948)

I don't think I have ever watched such a depressing, yet hauntingly beautiful film before. Mifune gives, in my opinion, an all-time great performance in his 4th film, and his first with Kurosawa. This film really grew on me as it went along.

Rashomon (1950)

I might have to revisit this one again in the future, because it just didn't click for me. I liked Mifune's performance and then scene with the medium, but outside of that I didn't enjoy it as much as the other Mifune/Kurosawa films I've watched so far.

I've finished five of the films so far, so here's a quick top 5:

1) Yojimbo

2) Sanjuro 

3) Drunken Angel

4) The Hidden Fortress

5) Rashomon

I was planning on watching Seven Samurai, but now I am leaning toward Red Beard before it expires. It's a long film, but it's also intriguing. Having only seen bits of Mifune before this birthday tribute, I think I would now place him in my top 10 all-time favorite actors. 

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20 hours ago, scsu1975 said:

Naldi shows her sex appeal early on.

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Yea her left sex appeal is quite apparent. 😉

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4 hours ago, YourManGodfrey said:

Rashomon (1950)

I might have to revisit this one again in the future, because it just didn't click for me. I liked Mifune's performance and then scene with the medium, but outside of that I didn't enjoy it as much as the other Mifune/Kurosawa films I've watched so far.

Having only seen bits of Mifune before this birthday tribute, I think I would now place him in my top 10 all-time favorite actors. 

!

It's okay though, sometimes I see stuff everyone else loves and for whatever inscrutable reason I am "meh" on it.

The acting in RASHOMAN is exceptional- not just from MIFUNE, but also (AND I AM SORRY THAT I AM TOO LAZY TO GOOGLE HER NAME) from THE ACTRESS who plays the possibly murderous possibly innocent young wife- I am VERY RESERVED when it comes to giving OSCAR NOMINATIONS for acting in FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILMS (it needs to be exceptional) but she merited serious consideration in whatever year RASHOMAN would've been eligible. 

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9 hours ago, speedracer5 said:

Lol. I like “The Ink Spots” too. They show up often on the Sirius 50s station. 

I may own both a Gidget collection and a Frankie & Annette one that has ALL the beach party movies, all 8 of them (At least I think that’s how many they are). Then there are all my other beach movies that aren’t part of a boxed set. 

THE INK SPOTS are wonderful. It's very difficult to stay in a bad mood when THE INK SPOTS ARE ON.

Maybe during the lockdown you can work on a spec script for a BEACH PARTY WOMEN IN PRISON MOVIE- ie ANNETTE goes to THE PHILLIPINES to watch FRANKIE AND THE GANG catch some curls, then they have  A SILLY LOVER'S MISUNDERSTANDING and she leaves IN A HUFF. At the airport, she,  her friend "Gidge" and her PAULA PRENTISS-esque other friend (the JAMIE LEE CURTIS ROLE) agree to carry a suitcase. and the next thing you know, they're being CAVITY SEARCHED by PAM GRIER. 

 

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The King (2019)

"Once more, into the breach, dear friends.."

Timothee Chalamet plays England's Prince Hal/King Henry V in a new telling of the story of England's famous warrior king.

It's sort of revisionism on top of revisionism, as it adapts Shakespeare's already revisionist history in Henry V. The film takes even more liberties with history than Shakespeare did, but the most interesting things about this film (which I liked very much) is that Henry (wonderfully played by Chalamet) seems to be a sort of pacifist who is tricked into fighting the French.  The character of Falstaff (a brilliant Joel Edgerton) has definitely received a makeover, being much less a buffoon and more a wise and noble world-weary soldier who is mentor to Henry.

The character of Henry evolves in the film from a lazy, drunken playboy who hates his father with a passion, to a thoughtful soldier and king. I guess a problem is that there really is no clue as to how the he gets from one place to another, in terms of character development (and proficiency at fighting)  but he does. And despite his reluctance to kill, he has no problem making quick and violent decisions. As someone once wrote, "King Lear is about a king becoming a man; Henry V is about a boy becoming a king."

The dialogue is not Shakespeare's. There is  no St. Crispin/band of brothers speech. But the dialogue is effective, the actors fine, and the Battle of Agincourt suitably muddy and messy.

The film has been criticized as anti-French, by people who seem not to be able to see a story in the context of its times. I think the contemporary French were offended by the depiction of the Dauphin (well played by Robert Pattinson) as a figure of fun. The director (David Michod) has said: “I kind of needed him (Pattinson) to be a larger-than-life jerk. He needed to be ridiculous. He needed not to have a lot of substance underneath him. He’s just there to annoy.” In its review of the film in London's Telegraph, the critic quoted the head of the Agincourt Museum in France: "I'm outraged. The image of the French is really sullied.  The film has Francophobe tendencies,” he said,  taking offence at Pattinson’s hammed-up take on the French Dauphin Louis de Guyenne, Henry’s nemesis. 

But the French have always had a problem with any depiction of King Henry V. 

By line count, the character of King Henry V comes third (after Hamlet and Iago) in many assessments of Shakespeare's roles. The Henry V in The King may have less to say, but Timothee Chalamet does very well conveying his inner thoughts and turmoil with a glance. And they have given him a rather adorable haircut, which makes a nice change to his flowing locks!

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Robert Pattinson as the Dauphin

 

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