Friday, November 20, 2020
Day: Friday 11/20/2020
Time: 8:30 PM Central
So, this movie kinda took down Cannon Films. It's an adaptation of a popular toy line and cartoon, and decided to appeal to no one by changing the location, characters and looks of the characters. But it does feature an early appearance of Courtney Cox and a "is this stardom?" era Dolph Lundgren, and a Frank Langella having the time of his life.
The movie is garbage, but it does have Meg Foster as evil enchantress/ excellent-eyes-haver Evil Lyn. And that ain't all bad.
Next week - if it's still on Prime - we're doing Working Girl. I'll be rooting for Sigourney Weaver.
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Format: Noir Alley on DVR
Director: Mark Robson
A Val Lewton horror film - that means a lot of atmosphere, mystery, wild plotting and not a lot of blood or outright frights - The Seventh Victim (1943) is a study in building a sense of dread and doom. It's a strange, strange film, following one lead character for much of the film before putting her in a corner and finding other characters more interesting to watch.
The film marks the movie debut of Kim Hunter*, who plays a private school girl who learns her bills aren't being paid by her sister - and her sister seems to have disappeared. She hits the big city and learns her sister has sold the cosmetics company she owned, her shrink hasn't seen her in a bit, and she was romantically hooked up with Ward Cleaver (see a young Hugh Beaumont as a sort of romantic character!).
Seems her sister fell in with a bunch of devil worshippers, and that's no gone great. In fact, when paired with a private eye who decides to do the work pro bono, he gets bumped off. At some point, we find the sister, and she's on a path that none of the men around her quite understand as they try to save her.
But, I'm selling the film short. Being a Lewton produced film, it's all about ideas and what you can't see in the shadows. There's a Lynchian dream-like quality to portions, and the horror of what you realize must be happening (from people getting away with murder right in front of you) to rooms full of people trying to talk you into suicide that's far weirder than any makeup or jump scares. Really, the closest thing I can think of in a "we're gonna watch someone end badly" closest to this film was Fire Walk With Me.
Included as a Noir Alley entry - it works. The film's aesthetics rely on expressionism, deep shadow, etc... There's certainly a doomed quality and an underworld scratching at the edges of polite society. In this case, an underworld that's what polite society does after 8:00 PM.
*Kim Hunter is much beloved at The Signal Watch as the actor who (a) appeared as Zira in some Planet of the Apes films, and (b) as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Format: HBO, maybe?
Viewing: Second or third
Director: Michael Dougherty
Tis the season for genre mashes! It's horror with Christmas joy! Join us as we peek in on a family that has lost its Christmas spirit - and is now facing a giant beastman-shaped reckoning. Marshall and Ryan talk the 2015 holiday horror hit that's become a bit of a perennial favorite (already!) - which reflects on how the holidays with family can really be a nightmare.
Krampus Main Theme - Douglas Pipes
Xmas Genre Xrossover 2020 Playlist
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Format: Amazon Watch Party
Viewing: Unknown. Probably fourth or fifth
Director: Sergio Leone
It had been maybe 15 years since I last watched For a Few Dollars More (1965), the second in the Man With No Name trilogy, which catapulted Clint Eastwood to stardom, made Leone an unlikely star director, and gave me some movies to be blown away by in my last teens/ early 20's.
It's an interesting bridge between the solo adventure of a Fistful of Dollars, which is also maybe a bit rougher from a technical standpoint, and the groundbreaking filmmaking that would come with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and explode into masterpiece filmmaking with Once Upon a Time in the West.
I may like Leone's work. Sue me.
The film isn't *that* different to characters and bears from A Fistful of Dollars, but it does insert Lee Van Cleef as the variable in the experiment, and to great effect. It's not hard to track how Leone went from this film to the three character structure of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in the next film, giving chances for shifting alliances based on the character's self interests and motivations. Flashbacks in this film presage similar from the finale from OUATITW.
It's a gorgeous film, and the pacing and characters are happily breaking the conventions of Westerns of the prior 60 years of film, pointing the way for what we would come to expect from an American action film. To the point that, with no knowledge of film history, what people coming to this movie for the first time would even think. But this is 1965 - we're barely two steps from Hopalong Cassidy, chronologically.
If you think you don't like westerns (a statement I think just basically means: I don't like movies about people without cars, as "western" is a nonsense category of a movie), give the Man With No Name Trilogy a shot. It's amazing stuff.
Monday, November 16, 2020
Format: Amazon Watch Party
Viewing: let's not talk about it
Director: Paul Verhoeven
I think we'll be podcasting this at some point in 2021, so we're gonna take a pass on writing it up.
But it was fun to watch as a Prime Party, as some hadn't seen it or hadn't seen it in a while.
Format: Amazon Watch Party
Decade: 1970's (and sooooo 1970's)
Director: Joseph Sargent
I saw this one the first time at the Paramount with absolutely zero context. Back in the day, I'd just show up for whatever was showing during the Summer classics series, and it's how I first saw some of my "new favorite" films since college. Third Man. Sunset Boulevard. and a host of others.
And, yeah, I really like The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 (1974). It's a tidy caper movie, sharing screen time between the heisters and the heisted, but with no set up - just the execution. So, when four guys take a subway car hostage on a weekday afternoon in New York, it makes no sense to the guys running the subway - blue collar schlubs whose jobs it is to literally make the trains run on time - and it takes a minute they don't have to figure out what the hell is going on. Let alone - how the baddies think they're going to get away with it (they're trapped in a tunnel, too).
The gang is a classic heist gang. The master mind. The wild card. The dutiful sergeant. The guy who is there as the inside man. But part of what makes the movie is that the guys on the other side of the mic aren't hostage negotiators - they're public employees suddenly in a very weird position, running communications from the heisters all the way to the Mayor. And, of course, they're a bunch of 1970's New Yorkers.
As the world I live in is project and operational management, I get a kick out of heist films. The heist = a project - and the plan for the heist, accounting for everything that can occur and keeping your stakeholders managed sure feels familiar. The opposite side is operations, which are interrupted by the interference of the heist. And - man, as I am wont to say - people are terrible in a crisis.
One detail I like about the film is that no one is working in synch on the MTA or government side. From the mayor dithering and worrying about votes to the internal disagreement in the subway tracking office where Matthau is trying to keep things in hand. I assure you, there's almost always someone in a crisis who is more bent out of shape that they can't do their usual job than aware of the actual unfolding situation than makes rational sense.
The movie was released in '74, so the occupants of the jobs likely have been sitting in that office since the late 1950's. There's a casual racism and sexism pervading the scene and characters, and the film does comment on it - albeit not in the way we're used to in 2020. Brace yourself for some stereotypes (especially among the hostages) and among the main cast. It's a movie about an imperfect world that has to suddenly deal with the unknown.
It's a tight film - the run time almost occurs in about half of real-time. We don't worry too much about the home lives of the characters, and we don't even really know the motivations or what led up to the heist. But what we do get is a wild mix of talent in the film which makes it work. Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Jerry Stiller, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, Doris Roberts, Julius Harris, Kenneth McMillan, and a bunch of other faces you'll recognize (I finally identified Robert Weil as also appearing in Hudsucker Proxy after it's bugged me every time I've watched this movie previously).
Anyway, worth your time some time.