Showing posts with label First viewing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label First viewing. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Noir Watch: Destination Murder (1950)




Watched:  10/21/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Edward L. Cahn

Shown on Noir Alley, Eddie Muller set the stage perfectly - Destination Murder (1950) is not going to fool anyone into thinking they're watching an A picture, but it is a wild ride of a film with a lot of character and more twists than a bag of pretzels.  

Laura Mansfield (Joyce MacKenzie) has come home from college on the east coast when her father opens the door for a seeming delivery man and takes a fatal bullet.  The cops seem to be stumbling, so Laura takes it upon herself to do some snooping.  Unfortunately, all of the delivery drivers in their line-up had alibis, but Laura fakes trust in her most likely suspect, and that opens a door into the underworld of the city, all based around The Vogue nightclub.  

Cast includes most recognizably Stanley Clements as the delivery man and assassin, Albert Dekker as the boss of the nightclub, Hurd Hatfield as the brains and manager of the nightclub, and Myrna Dell as a competing femme fatale.  

For the first thirty minutes, it feels like a standard B-picture, and then the twists start coming hard and fast.  Some are jaw-droppers, some are "say what?" moments, but all of it does fit into the logic of the movie.  And, anchored by the solid delivery by Joyce MacKenzie, it's all a bit crazy but just works.  That said - no one will be in a rush to nominate anyone here for an Oscar.  

Highly recommended in a "well, that was crazy!" kind of way.

Watch Party Watch: Slighty Scarlet (1956)




Watched:  10/20/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Allan Dwan - Director of Photography:  John Alton

This week's Tuesday selection by Jenifer was Slightly Scarlet (1956), an RKO noir picture that seemed to have all the hallmarks of an RKO crime picture, and - starring the late Rhonda Fleming - was released in technicolor.  Jenifer no doubt selected the film because Fleming passed just last week on the 14th, and it seemed like a good way to remember the red-head bombshell, known as "Queen of Technicolor".*

Shot by John Alton, one of the now-most-famous noir DP's, it's wild to see a noir of this period in color, and one that was still being lit like all we were working with was gray tone and black and white.  Even if the story of the film doesn't grab you, it's interesting enough just to see how the rules for how these movies would be shot that had been brewing for a decade works and doesn't work once your subjects are in living color.

The story is James M. Cain, who gave us Mildred Pierce and The Postman Always Rings Twice, so you know it's family melodrama mixed with MURDER.

Fleming plays a career-gal who has just landed the next mayor of her California coastal city (the fictional Bay City) as her beau.  She's picking up her sister from jail, a troubled young woman with a bent psyche.  But along comes John Payne - an educated fellow playing dirty in the rackets and has an eye on the Big Man's chair (Ted De Corsia).  

Payne romances Fleming, the sister - who becomes increasingly unhinged out of her prison environs - decides she wants her some John Payne, and city politics mix with mob corruption.

All in all, a tight noir plot.  Aside from color, the stand-out difference is really Arlene Dahl's portrayal of the troubled sister, who would be winding up in a Mental Health Court these days, and how treatment and support of family (even as Dahl is blaming Fleming for her state) is everything.  It does lean into "there's a specific event that caused this" psychology of the time, at least as far as movies are concerned - and it is lifted wholesale from 1946's The Locket - but it's still an interesting twist to not just write off the sister as twisted or evil.

Also - a harpoon gun is deployed!

I think I did a phenomenal job of not acting like a Tex Avery wolf cartoon when Fleming was on screen - and the movie (in classic RKO noir fashion) - was certainly going for production value.  I can't tell if this was part of the Howard Hughes era of the studio - certainly it has the feel of something he would have had his hands on, from Fleming's wardrobe, to Arlene Dahl's personal line of negligee playing a featured role, and fight scenes that feel a little bone-crunchy.  My suspicion is: yes.  But I'm not sure when Hughes' grip on RKO slipped, and it would have been around this period.  But, man, that poster looks like something Hughes would have insisted on.



*it's hard to say the impact red-heads had on Technicolor and it had on red-heads.  I know Maureen O'Hara was also considered a highlight of Technicolor film.  

Saturday, October 17, 2020

PODCAST: "Phantom of the Opera" (1925) and (1962) - Universal and Hammer Studios! - Halloween 2020 w/ SimonUK and Ryan


Watched:  October 4 ('25) October 6 ('62) 2020
Format:  BluRay (Kino Lorber) and Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  1000th and First
Decade:  1920's and 1960's
Director:  Rupert Julian and Terence Fisher



SimonUK and Ryan cannot remain silent on the topic of that wacky phantom what lurks beneath the opera! We take a look at two of the many film appearances where a creepy music teacher stalks and abducts his pupil while making the most of a poor real estate situation and skin condition. We take a look at the 1925 film from Universal as well as the 1962 take from Hammer, and, boy howdy, are these two different films. 
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor - JS Bach (unknown performer)
Don Juan Triumphant?   I'm not sure, honestly


Halloween and Horror (everything at The Signal Watch)

Hammer Watch: Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968)

 


Watched:  10/14/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Freddie Francis

Let's start by saying "continuity" is not the watch-word for Hammer's Dracula series.  

The remote village which last saw Dracula die by drowning in a frozen moat around his castle is now located in a steep mountain area (as suggested in prior films, but which always seemed a whole lot like a forested area in a topographically uninteresting meadow).  I think the movie opens during Dracula's brief return to life from Dracula: Prince of Darkness when Dracula must have stopped off for a bite in the village, leaving a village maiden dead and inverted inside the bell of the local church.  

The plot is a bit windy, but involves a good-hearted Monsignor showing up, trying to ensure Dracula cannot return after the events of the prior movie, but a fallen priest winds up bringing Dracula back (and becomes Drac's henchman).  Dracula tracks the Monsignor home where he targets his niece.  The niece is dating/ apparently shagging a local student/ outspoken atheist.

Prior characters and locations are kind of nodded at, but only in the faintest ways.  The nearby abbey featured prominently in the prior film is unmentioned, as are any previously seen characters.  You'd think folks would invent speed-dial just to keep Van Helsing on it.

As in prior Hammer vampire films, there's a question of how Christianity and faith intersect with the abomination that is Dracula - and this film puts a fine point on it, featuring a priest who has lost his faith, a priest who has not and a smart mouthed atheist college student.  A cross is a good way to put Dracula off, but it requires faith in the object - something an atheist doesn't have (nor a fallen priest).  Released in 1968, while Britain and the US were wrestling with youth culture movements (our juvenile lead is doing his best to look like Roger Daltrey circa 1968) there's certainly a strain of "this new-fangled thinking by the youths is gonna get us all Dracula'd".  

Of course, seeing the inverse of God and miracles is a pretty good argument that one is not getting the full picture and answers questions of someone who might ask them - and so there's an emergency (and logical) jump to faith, or at least a reasonable facsimile of faith.  And the lack of faith by the fallen priest has made him vulnerable to Drac's evil ways and not even particularly interested in resistance.

Yeah, it's a bit on the nose that Dracula is literally impaled on a cross at the end, but given the themes, it's got a certain poetry and we'll allow it.  There does seem to be some sort of divine will at play in this film, but you don't want to be a flirty barmaid/ cannon fodder for the plot.

This is the Hammer Dracula with the weird "Drac Lens".  It's not a terrible effect, but once you notice it, you do keep looking at it instead of the action of the screen. It's not without motivation, but would have worked better as a POV device.

It's good to have Lee back as Dracula, who even has lines this time, and other familiar faces like Michael Ripper and Rupert Davies.  

All in all - enjoyable as the last, if very different in tone as this one was not directed by Terence Fisher.  



Thursday, October 15, 2020

Watch Party Watch: Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965)




Watched:  10/13/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's (and how!)
Director:   Robert Gaffney

Jenifer picked this particular gem for our Tuesday screening, and it was a g-d delight.  

For reasons that are never explained, NASA creates a sort of synthetic man they want to launch into space in place of an astronaut (we are all fine with automation in our space probes, and I'm not sure why the ruse is necessary).  He doesn't actually work very well, but they go ahead with the plan.

Meanwhile, aliens from a distant world that has experienced a wave of self-destruction via nuclear exchange have come to Earth in a space ship roughly the size of a small house, with plans to steal our women - because they have none.  Except for their leader, a sort of imperious-but-fun Space Queen (Marilyn Hanold) in a heck of a pant-suit and head dress.  


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Noir Watch: The Racket (1951)




Watched:  10/13/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  John CromwellMel Ferrer...(uncredited), Tay Garnett...(uncredited), Nicholas Ray...(uncredited)  Sherman Todd...(uncredited)

Part of the "tough, straight-lace cop goes up against the mob" noir genre that crescendos (for me) with The Big Heat, The Racket (1951) sees Robert Ryan cast as a mob boss who came up the ranks thanks to his Capone-like ruthlessness who now realizes that by joining a combination that's moved into town and absorbed him - he's getting sidelined.  And in his business, that can mean a pine box.  Ryan's opposite is Robert Mitchum, a guy who grew up in the same neighborhood as Ryan, but found satisfaction on the side of the angels.  before we see him, we know he's paid the price for not playing patty-cake with the mob -  passed over for promotion despite his success and pushed to yet another district.

There's no small amount of politics, graft and corruption, and Ryan's to-date clean record (bought via a line of pliable judges) is still holding up, but his desire to remain top dog in his town is leading him to recklessness - including deciding to put out a hit on a would-be judicial candidate.  Mitchum takes the indirect route to Ryan, picks up his brother, which brings the brother's songbird ladyfriend into the picture - here played by noir icon Lizabeth Scott.  There's also an amorous reporter who is awkwardly guileless for the profession he's selected, and William Talman plays a cop trying to live up to and follow in Mitchum's footsteps.

Also look for a young, The Killers-era William Conrad playing a role 20 years ahead of its time and "that guy" actor Ray Collins as the scumbag politician.

The film is an RKO picture, and on the tough side.  Even our good-guys play a bit fast and loose with the truth when they know the mob is using the law as a blunt instrument.  People throw punches with minimal provocation.  Even the virginal housewives (Joyce Mackenzie and Virginia Huston) have to deal with death and their foyers exploding.  Cars don't just crash, they flip.  

If you're a Mitchum or Robert Ryan fan (and I am), then that's enough.  RKO spent some money on this one, if not a ton of money, and the performances, dialog and stakes work well enough to gloss over some rockier aspects of the story.  

It's interesting to see Lizabeth Scott cast as more of a free-agent than the love interest of a main character.  Yeah, she's pursued by two characters in the film, but when her character speaks to Ryan and Mitchum, it's not through the filter of a romance - she's just laying down the truth, man.  She's pretty good here, honestly (she's never been my favorite of the noirista favorite dames), but credit where it's due.  I think she's terrific as an end-of-her rope songbird who couldn't believe she'd stumbled into a little luck in romance and possible financial security (those post-Depression notes just don't show up in movies anymore as a motivator, and they should).  

This is an ancestor of tough guy cops and robbers movies that we're still enjoying  - although after Heat, I'm not sure anyone is bothering anymore.  It's got that visceral appeal of an RKO noir, and doesn't put a shiny veneer on anything.  And, honestly, probably hews closer to a version of the truth than we want to think about as more than a fun crime story. It won't make you rethink cinema, and it's not the best even in it's sub-genre, but it's a solid production despite multiple writers and 4 directors (that we know of).

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Amazon Watch Party: How to Make a Monster (1958)




Watched:  10/06/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director: Herbert L. Strock

How to Make a Monster (1958) turned out to be a surprisingly watchable bit of borrowed-thunder schlock from American International Pictures, an indie studio that knew Universal couldn't copyright wolf men or frankensteins and really focused on the hep teens as an audience.  You know they loved the kids because a character, just at the far end of middle-age, literally monologues for a minute about how great "teens" are, just sort of out of the blue.

On the heels of I Was a Teenage Werewolf (an early Michael Landon film) and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, I guess AIP decided to do some metacommentary and, thus, How to Make a Monster is about how monster pictures are no longer the cool thing, daddio, so our aging movie-monster specialist is told that after this last movie, he's being cut loose.  See, new producers just bought the studio and they basically want to make singing and dancing pictures (a real eye for the future, these guys).  

The make-up specialist has figured out that a formula he's been working on for make-up application has a hypnotic quality, and he uses it to get the teens he's so fond of to start murdering the interloping new bosses.

There's plenty of 1950's B-movie hijinks, some deeply questionable decisions, and a seemingly stable make-up artist who has a whole different scene going on in his private life than you'd have guessed.

I am unsure if the movie is trying to comment upon the career of Jack Pierce, famous for the creation of Frankenstein's monster, the Wolf Man, the Mummy and others - who was ousted in 1946 from Universal.*  After all, the movie is about a make-up artist who created wolfman and Frankenstein monsters and who is let go as new studio brass comes in and wants a change in tone for the studio.

Jack Pierce didn't go on to murder anyone that I know of, nor was he a master of mind-control, and finished his days working on Mr. Ed.  It's really been the rise of the Rick Baker's of the world who discussed Pierce that means he's discussed today among make-up nerds.

It is not clear why the villain needs to put on full make-ups in order to get his minions to kill people, or why he puts recognizable make-ups on them, but the effect is something else as the poor kids run around strangling business guys just going about their own business.  Nor is it clear why the make-up man doesn't clear out to give himself a better alibi, rather than waiting around while the murders happen.  

But, all in all, a cheery little horror movie that abruptly goes into color in the final reel, making for a jolting effect that feels almost surreal.




*there's a whole weird chapter of Hollywood make-up history that includes a near mafia-like relationship between the Westmore family and all of the studios.  The Westmores basically took over make-up across LA in the 40's and 50's, and were jealously protective of their reputation.  In some ways, the relationship continues to this day with SyFy's Face Off monster movie make-up contest - a product of the Westmore family.  Some of this, I believe, is covered in the recent Lady From the Black Lagoon book, which describes the sidelining of Millicent Patrick as a designer for the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Noir Watch: Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)




Watched:  10/08/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Otto Preminger


Before watching, I had a general awareness of Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950), a movie I've seen listed here and there as a noir-buff favorite.  Starring Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney and directed by Otto Preminger, you'd think I'd have prioritized the film.  I did not.  No idea why.  

And, of course, because noir buffs don't tend to oversell movies, the movie does not disappoint.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Mystery Watch: Enola Holmes (2020)

 


Watched:  10/5/2020
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020
Director:  Harry Bradbeer

I am *pretty* sure this wasn't aimed at me, but it was kind of delightful.  

This is one highly-nit-pickable movie, and I won't say I didn't have a few times I didn't say something out loud during the movie to Jamie - but it always seemed in poor taste and not in the spirit of the thing.  

Enola Holmes tells the story of Sherlock Holmes' (Henry Cavill) younger sister - a prodigy in her own right (Millie Bobby Brown), but just 16.  She's been raised in the Holmes family manor entirely by her mother, her brothers having had departed shortly after their father passed when Enola was very young.  

Her mother (the always wonderful Helena Bonham Carter) has raised her outside of social norms, recognizing her capacity and aware that a late Victorian-era England will ruin her with its expectations and limitations.  But on her 16th birthday, her mother disappears.  Flat out seems to have ducked out, leaving not exactly clues, but a few items which will provide comfort and perhaps a means of communication.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Disney Attempt-at-Spooky Watch: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)


 

Watched:  10/04/2020
Format: Disney+
Viewing:  I'm calling it a first for the whole movie
Decade:  1940's
Director:  James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kenney

So, we were hunting around for something spooky to watch on Disney+, and I saw they had The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949).  I'd never seen the movie in its entirety.  If I ever saw the Wind in the Willows bit that makes up the first half, I don't recall it at all.   

However, the Ichabod Crane part based on Washington Irving's Sleepy Hollow is for good reasons, a Halloween staple.  And, I've seen it a dozen times or so before.  

Taken as a whole, this movie is very weird and unnecessary.  It's clearly two stories that have nothing to do with each other slapped together with a wildly awkward framing device of a library of real books and voice over by, first, Basil Rathbone and then Bing Crosby, which tells me something about how much the left hand and right were talking to each other as this came together.  

As a kid, my first real exposure to Mr. Toad was via the Disney World attraction, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, which was - I ain't gonna lie - super f'ing fun. My memory was that the ride was chaotic and goofy as hell.  And I understood it was based on a fancy toad who got his hands on a car.  

Well, the movie version is... kind of annoying.  I don't really have another word for it.  Unlike most Disney, there's no character development, and Toad just seems like a problem for everyone around him.  Like, that one friend who is now on drugs and you're all supposed to make sure he doesn't harm themself or anyone else.  The animation is pretty good, and it gave us the weasels that pop up in Roger Rabbit, but...  yeah.  This is the rare Disney animation that I just have no affection for - but weirdly like the ride.

And Ichabod itself is also strangely... boring.  And there's no one to actually like.  But, when you do get to the actual Sleepy Hollow scene, it's amazing work.  But 5 minutes or so is not enough to carry a whole movie.

What I guess is that Walt, post-WWII, was just not all that into the animation studio stuff anymore, and you can feel his hand off the wheel in the storytelling department - something that would plague them til Little Mermaid.  It's not horrible stuff, but it feels like someone let the animators just animate whatever they felt like rather than working toward a cohesive story, for two whole stories.  

But, again, that Headless Horseman.


Hammer Watch: The Brides of Dracula (1960)


 

Watched:  10/04/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960
Director:  Terence Fisher

I'd not paid much attention to the non-Christopher Lee movies from Hammer that pitched themselves as Dracula, but decided this Halloween I'm going to watch all of the Draculas from the studio in order.  So, next up from Horror of Dracula is the 1960 entry, The Brides of Dracula.  

A prologue lets us know that the film takes place in proximity to the death of Dracula in the prior film.  The opening follows the journey of a young Parisian woman headed to teach French in a school in Transylvania.  She is held over at an inn (unknown to her, intentionally so) where she meets a wealthy Baroness who takes her to her castle.  

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Noir Watch: They Won't Believe Me (1947)



Watched:  10/02/2020
Format:  TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Irving Pichel

An interesting noir with a series of curious twists and a solid cast.  Presented on TCM's Noir Alley, host Eddie Muller brought in author Christina Lane who recently released a book on the film's producer Joan Harrison, Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock (which would make a welcome Christmas gift for us at Signal Watch HQ).  Harrison is worth discussing for her path into the film business, sensibility she brought to Hitchcock's story-telling, and... frankly, some of the other movies she's produced - including Phantom Lady* and Ride the Pink Horse - are fantastic and owe a lot of their story strength and sensibility to Harrison.

They Won't Believe Me (1947) is framed with a murder trial. Young is the defendant, and he's telling his tale/ spilling his guts from the witness stand, trying to explain what really happened, and which looks, honestly, really, really bad for him.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Watch Party Watch: Someone I Touched (1975)


 


Watched:  09/22/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Lou Antonio

Well, this falls squarely into "something I probably wouldn't have watched on my own".  A 1975 TV movie about syphilis and the people in Southern California who get it.  However, it does star Cloris Leachman making 1970's outfits actually work.  

It's easy to forget - we live in an era of media that's deeply scrubbed and sanitized.  Sure, sure, we've got gritty heroes and complex moral subplots, but a movie torn from the headlines about how sleeping around on your spouse isn't just naughty, it can give you a debilitating (but treatable) disease would be considered un-airable on network TV.  In an era where we had basically three networks and PBS, this was what a network decided would make for good all-purpose viewing.  

And, it's surprisingly good, helped along by Leachman turning in a rock solid performance and bringing some realism to a melodrama that includes infidelity and the impact beyond our immediate group of characters.  In fact, it starts far out from Leachman and works it's way back.  

I don't want to oversell the movie, but there's some willingness to deal with real-life unpleasantness and leave things a bit ambiguous that could exist in today's landscape, but it's hard not to imagine it getting glossed up and the audience missing the point and turning it into a game of "who do we blame here, because everything is about winning and losing?"


Comedy Watch: Hot Rod (2007)




Watched:  09/17/2020
Format:  Amazon Prime
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Akiva Schaffer

I'm a little surprised this movie isn't more of a cult favorite.  Or maybe it is, and I just don't know that cult.  4 out of five times, this is exactly the kind of movie I am thinking of when I go looking for a comedy. 

YMMV.


Monday, September 21, 2020

Noir Watch: Danger Signal (1945)


 

Watched:  09/19/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Robert Florey

Noir Alley is back, and I was delighted to see another movie by Austin hometown-boy-made-good, Zachary Scott.  Danger Signal (1945) is a WWII-era potboiler that's of the noir flavor that has kind of become a thing in Lifetime Channel thrillers.  Scott plays a ne'er-do-well who escapes the murder of a woman for whom he's managed to somehow plant a suicide note.  

He winds up in an idyllic California town where he boards with a middle-aged woman and her stenographer daughter, played by Faye Emerson.  He woos and wins Emerson, who doesn't notice the strapping, handsome, baritone-voiced scientist who keeps bringing her work may have the hots for her.  Instead, she slips for Scott's charm.  That is until her 17 year old sister comes home and Scott pivots his interest to her.  

Emerson has a friend who is a psychologist/ scientist who gets involved (Rosemary DeCamp), and more or less tears Scott apart as the charming sociopath he actually knows he is.  It's kinda cool.  I was kinda there for Dr. Silla.  

ANYWAY, Faye Emerson steals a vial of @#$%ing botulism from her hunky scientist friend and plans to kill Scott because, basically, he's a big shit bag and shouldn't get to keep being a shit bag who will hurt her sister.

It's a weird movie that seems like they just kept forgetting parts of the movie.  Scott has a limp he fakes as a war wound that they just don't mention.  A gun shows up, but is never really used.  And the end is - weird.  Like, totally unsatisfying.  Which Muller discussed in the backmatter of the episode.

Anyway - Zach Scott is terrific, Emerson is pretty good, and I felt like the overall direction by Robert Florey was solid and built tension despite the narrative bumps.  Special note for Mona Freeman who does a remarkable heel-turn in the back third of the film, and a young Dick Erdman playing "Bunkie", who is everyone's personal disappointment.

Watch of the Damned: Creation of the Humanoids (1962)




Watched:  09/18/2020
Format:  Watch Party
Viewing:  First (and last!)
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Wesley Barry


...R.O.T.O.R.

...Santa with Muscles

...Monster a Go-Go...  


Sure, we watch a lot of not-great movies, but some feel as if they exist to test your very sanity.  Some movies are so insanely bad, so weirdly made and uncomfortable to watch - made and released with what appears to be utter sincerity on the part of the filmmakers - sincerity that serves no one and seems like a hallucination more than a delusion...  

These films join our personal canon of Movies of the Damned.  

We've had a wild ride this summer as we've enjoyed our Friday night Amazon Watch Parties, but Jenifer found an amazing entry this week with Creation of the Humanoids (1962).  

It's the movie that dares to ask:  but what if a movie was 96% exposition?  

and

What if everyone just stood on their marks with a minimum of motion for the runtime of a film?

In some ways, I give it credit.  It does nothing but propose a few sci-fi premises and then builds on those premises, asking questions no one asked and providing a sea of answers that no one cares about, only to ask more questions.  And it does it over and over and over for what I am pretty sure was a full calendar year, but you will find to be a neat 75 minute or so runtime.  

It's a post-nuclear-holocaust future and man is barely hanging in there despite shiny outfits, women with rocket bras, nifty architecture and the help of our robot friends.  

People seem to be on their way out, as robots seem to be figuring out self-replication.  There's a herd of guys running around yelling MAGA dressing in shiny Confederate uniforms and harassing robots.  They have a cute clubhouse and everything.  Meanwhile, Robots are, in fact, secretly rising up to replace humans.  

All of this is told, not shown, in lengthy, lengthy speeches which would make a high school forensics teacher proud.  

The make-up on the humanoids/ robots is weirdly excellent - the work of Jack "Universal Monsters" Pierce himself, apparently slumming by 1962.  

I can't do this movie justice.  I hate it so much I like it.  It's mind-bogglingly inept, except that... the cinematography, sets, and make-up all work fine.  It's just that there's only 4 sets, and long, long scenes that will not end containing nothing but nonsense sci-fi talk that can and should have been SHOWN.  Just when you think this might be an allegory for something - NO.  We move right on past that and it's right back to a very concrete story about the concrete problems of robots.  It's like the mad ramblings of the worst nerd in your class who gets why robots are interesting, but not at all how a story works.  And was given money to make a movie.  

I... I'm worn out just thinking about it.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Fosse Watch: All That Jazz (1979)




Watched:  09/15/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First (all the way through)
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Bob Fosse

Not that long ago I watched the FX limited series Fosse/Verdon, an FX television production following the later careers of Broadway and Hollywood director Bob Fosse and his ex-wife - famed performer, Gwen Verdon.  If you've not seen it, I can't recommend it enough.  It stars two of the greats of this era, Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell, and features some amazingly nuanced performances by both, in a co-dependent relationship/ partnership that's bigger than a failed marriage.  

I'm not a musical theatre follower - and certainly no historian of the second half of the 20th Century when it comes to musical theater or movie musicals, but it's not hard to see the impact Bob Fosse left on the form, and why everyone is still scrambling to keep up.  His stage show of Chicago (2002) managed to win Academy Awards when turned into a hit movie decades after his passing (1987).  And during his lifetime he was a huge part of the movement that made musicals relevant, updated dance on Broadway, and turned sexiness from something blushing and suggested to something overt.  And - he made the films Sweet Charity, Cabaret, Lenny, Star80 and All That Jazz (1979).

I'd seen parts of All That Jazz years ago, but on a channel that cut it for TV and for commercials, and given the flow, I threw in the towel with an intention to watch it all in one shot - which I never did.  But i did see enough of it to gather some basic facts - I figured it was a confessional auto-biopic from when "directed by Bob Fosse" came up, and saw what the film was about.  So I didn't go into Fosse/Verdon totally unprepared.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Forgot to Write It Up Watch: "The Bigamist" (1953) and "A Crime Against Joe" (1956)



 


Watched:  The Bigamist 09/02 and ACAJ 09/09/2020
Format:  Watch Party w/ Jenifer
Viewing:  First for both
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Ida Lupino and  Lee Sholem

Jenifer's been hosting Amazon Watch Parties on Wednesdays, and she's picked some good ones.  And A Crime Against Joe (1956).  

I was delighted to finally see The Bigamist, starring and directed by the great Ida Lupino.  And I watched A Crime Against Joe.  It was certainly a movie.

Not doing a write up of either, but suffice it to say, anything with Lupino is a pretty good idea, and seeing her get to direct is always a treat.

lovely eyes stare into middle distance
Lupino ponders how Edmond O'Brien of all guys landed two women at once



Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Bear Watch: Grizzly (1976)


 

Watched:  09/07/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  William Girdler

So, I very much remember this VHS box fading on the shelf of pretty much every video rental place I went from the mid-80's to the late 90's.  I think it was usually in the horror section, which is an inaccurate place to put the movie, but it's not action, either.  But I never thought much about it - I just didn't rent it.  Looked like a movie about a large bear eating people, and I was pretty far into my 30's before I realized I liked movies about large animals giving humanity a bad time.

So, apparently there's a sequel that was never released, and it includes actors like Louise Fletcher, John Rhys Davies, George Clooney and.. most importantly.. Laura Dern.  Shot in 1983, it's just NOW about to get a release.  And I figured "well, I don't want to not know what happened in the first one...", and even though the original is 100% Laura Dern-free, Jamie and I fired it up.  

Friends: what if Jaws, but bear?  

That is the question posited by Grizzly, the highest earning independent movie ever when it was released in 1976.  And I'm not exaggerating - someone went to see Jaws and wrote down the events of that movie, and tried to map their own script onto the story of Jaws.  But instead of a 25 foot shark, we have a 15' grizzly bear.  Instead of a Sheriff, we have a Captain of the Park Rangers.  

They even include scenes like the Captain getting drunk when someone gets killed, and a spooky monologue about a herd of grizzlies eating people.  There are three main characters, but one of them (played by "that guy" actor Richard Jaeckel) is a mix of Hooper and Quint (he even wears Hooper's little hat).  

There's a Park Manager who doesn't want to shut the park down, invites in hunters... you're maybe familiar with the plot.

Anyway - it's also kind of plodding and gives you an idea what Spielberg and his editors did so well that this movie did not.  But, again, wildly successful!  

Anyhoo... I want to podcast this with Simon at some point.  So, more to come.