It's fair to say, that when I saw this at age 16 or whatever it was (I would have been 15 upon the film's release, and didn't see it in the theater) I followed the plot, but I didn't "get" the film. Recently I was discussing this film with some folks who said it was a good neo-noir, and I should give it a shot, so I did. What the hell else am I doing?
I'd literally forgotten I'd seen the film until reading the synopsis on wikipedia, and realized I had, in fact, seen it, but didn't remember which of the circa 1990-era adult court mystery dramas I was thinking of when and if details from the movie crossed my mind. Firstly "Presumed Innocent" is as untelling a title as what often gets applied to noir. Second, until about 1997, I think every fifth movie coming out was an actor in a suit going to court for some reason or other.
So, yeah, seeing a film about betrayal in a marriage and the fallout wrapped up in a mystery, semi-erotic thriller works far better at age 46 and with 21 years of marriage under your belt. Also, realizing how *good* everyone is in this movie was a delight. And goddamn the early passing of Raul Julia, who was amazing here.
When Jamie and I started dating, I recall one of the things we agreed upon was Babe (1995), the movie about a polite little pig who unwittingly dodges the carving knife over and over while a quiet farmer recognizes his potential and figures him for an excellent sheep dog pig.
I don't recall exactly why I saw Babe, but for a streak from 1995- 1999 or so, I was at the movies 3 times per week or so, watching a good chunk of mainstream cineplex content, but also hitting Austin's Dobie and Village theaters to catch the "college rock" options when it came to movies. What I can remember is my utter shock at how *good* the film was. I hadn't read any reviews, I really expected it to be a goofy little kids movie, and I kind of stumbled out into the sun afterwards unsure of what I'd seen.
And, believe me, sitting around drinking beers with your pals fresh back from summer and saying "you know what was really good that I saw this summer? Babe, the movie about the talking pig." This is early-days film school where everyone's trying to prove they've seen the coolest, artiest stuff and where people rolled their eyes at you for talking about techniques from Star Wars, so - to suggest that a movie was something that they had decided it was not - was taken about as well as the idea of a pig herding sheep.
Well, it's still coming up on my birthday, and Jamie said "watch whatever, it's your b-day." And, with a Totter movie cleared we moved on to Ida Lupino. Well, friends, while it may have started pre-pandemic, Jamie has thrown in with the Ida Lupino Fan train the past year, for sure. So, this selection was saluted.
I'd not previously seen Woman in Hiding (1950), but picked it up cheap on BluRay, because: Lupino.
I will argue that the noir movement splintered into several familiar genres, from the erotic thriller to the Lifetime Network's basic movie programming. Film's with "women in peril" such as Sudden Fear and Beware, My Lovely - which definitely have precedents from the start of film found a home in the crime genres of the 1950's, doubling as "women's films" with plucky heroines (scared out of their minds) and some chisel-jawed dude who might come to the rescue. By the early 00's: I mean - have you seen the names of movies on the Lifetime Network?*
Woman in Hiding follows Ida Lupino playing the daughter of a wealthy mill-owner in small-town North Carolina. After the accidental death of her father, she marries the factory foreman, only to be met at their honeymoon cottage by a young woman informing Lupino "he was my man, he married you for the mill, and he probably killed your dad."
Freaked out, Lupino goes into HIDING (see - the title is accurate). Here she meets Howard Duff (whom she's marry the next year) and shenanigans ensue.
The film does contain a drinking game noir item - there's a convention in the hotel where they're staying.
The film co-stars the lovely Peggy Dow in one of her very few film roles - she was also in the film version of Harvey that same year - and she was out of movies by 1952. Which is a shame - she's great here and totally different from her character in Harvey.
It also stars "that guy" actor Taylor Holmes, as well as Don Beddoe.
This isn't my favorite Lupino role, but that's the script more than anything she's doing. But, man, when confronted by Dow's character with what her new husband of less than a day may have done - she's got a lot to do there and nails it.
Special nod on this one to cinematographer William H. Daniels. He manages to get in some great stuff, especially in the sequence on the stairwell, on the bus and in the finale sequence. Gorgeous looking noir stuff. And letting the drafts in the stairwell kick at Lupino's skirt of her dress was pretty great (and likely a happy accident).
*it's a parade of playing on paranoia re: domestic insecurity mixed with actual issues of domestic trauma, and it's a wild ride that Lifetime programs that shit 24/7 and then flips to "and now two months of movies about Santa being your boyfriend's dad".
It's relatively near my birthday, and so Jamie said "watch whatever you want", and- me being me - I'd been wanting to watch Tension (1949) again as it had been a while.
If you've not seen Tension, which Jenifer introduced me to years ago, thereby doing me the lifelong solid of introducing me to Audrey Totter's work, you should! It's noir, but kinda goofy, has a career high performance for Totter as the femme fatale, Richard Basehart playing Richard Basehart, and Barry Sullivan and William Conrad as two cops I would have followed in any number of movies as they strode into rooms like they owned the place everywhere they went.
Weirdly, the film stars Cyd Charisse in a non-dancing role, something MGM must have been trying on for her to see how far she could push her acting chops. And she's pretty good! But mostly her job is to look lovely and be concerned about Richard Basehart, so she wasn't about to give Bette Davis a run for her money at this point.
I won't describe the movie as "camp", but it's certainly a goofier entry in the annals of noir. From the hook of the plot to the strategy of the cops trying to sort it all out, and topped by Totter's Claire Quimby - a whirlwind of badgirl behavior - it's a dang entertaining film. You won't compare it to, say, The Third Man, but it does reward rewatching once you're familiar with the characters.
Claire Quimby married Warren as a way out of whatever her life was in San Diego and because he was cute in a uniform. He seemed like he was going places - but now she's living in a dingy apartment as Warren works 12 hours night shifts 5 days a week as a pharmacist, scrimping and saving to get her to the middle class life he thinks they both want.
Watch Cyd Charisse just want to smack the living hell out of Totter (but she's too nice)
At night, she's actually cruising the lunch counter in the pharmacy, looking to get picked up by guys who can show her a good time or provide her with her next step up (and with the looks to make it happen). She runs off with a guy with a flashy car and a beach house, and Warren's attempts to get her back flop - he's beaten up and humiliated.
Thus, Warren dares to wear 1940's hard contact lenses to change his appearance, and creates a secondary life for himself as "Paul Southern", creating a persona unrelated to Warren so that the cops will look for this Southern person instead fo Warren when the time comes to kill Barney and reclaim his wife.
But - he meets Cyd Charisse, who apparently doesn't meet many men, because despite being Cyd Charisse, she's available and latches on to the mysterious cosmetics salesman who moved in next door. Warren kinda realizes this murder scheme is dumb, his wife isn't worth it, and... hey... new girlfriend.
Planning to let Cyd Charisse in on his charade and double life, he returns home, and so does Claire - letting him know Barney is dead.
Enter our cops, trying to figure out what is going on with this weird couple - and so Barry Sullivan applies... TENSION.
IE: he sweats Warren and seduces Totter.
Going for the Clark Kent Approved method of a "no glasses, different guy" disguise, was a pretty bold move in an era where Superman was already a pretty well-known figure. But watching Sullivan deciding to go for Claire/ Totter, you really get the feeling he's okay with however this pans out and would take equal pleasure in jailing Warren and going to Acapulco with Claire or putting Claire away. No big whoop.
It's a well shot, tight little film that does a lot with what it is. And, really, it's a showcase for many of the things Totter does best when she gets to play a bad girl. But add in a windy, multi-part plot and all the parties playing against each other, and while not exactly a mystery as to who did the murdering, it is a potboiler seeing how this thing will play out.
Anyway - can't recommend enough, if for no other eason than to see Totter's character's constant irritation with Basehart's character. She is done, y'all.
Weirdly, this European produced take on Frankenstein co-stars film great Joseph Cotten. I have no explanation other than Cotten wanted to have a stay in Europe for a while and this work was easy and probably wouldn't be seen by Americans, especially fifty years later on personal computers. But here we are!
The basic set-up for the story is that the good doctor (Cotten) is getting set for his grand experiment to bring a human to life when his daughter (Rosalba Neri) returns from med school, a fully licensed surgeon with amazing hair. He has a sort of side-kick who helps him out in the lab, as well as the usual grave-robber types hanging about.
But when the monster springs to life, he is super into murder, and starts with Baron Frankenstein. Well, funny story, because his daughter Tania is way more of a freak than he. So, as the monster runs around murdering pretty much exclusively copulating couples (viva Italia), the NEW good doctor gets to work on a plan for creating her own monster who will kill the first monster. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
She first seduces and marries her father's invalid sidekick, then convinces him to undergo a brain transplant into the local handsome moron.
You guys, I'm not gonna lie. This movie has a ton of nudity and sex, and then you remember "oh yeah, this is an Italian horror movie. They think Americans movies are way too tame." And so. But it also creates a certain very dark take on the proceedings as Lady Frankenstein herself manipulates the men around her and seems to thrill in the more sadistic elements of what's going on - leading to an ending that had our watch party basically saying "well, huh" as the film wrapped.
It IS a horror movie. Horrible things happen! Some of it was some weirdly dark content I did not expect from what seemed initially like a goofy Hammer knock-off. Because, man, there are some sharp turns there in the second half.
I'll at least say: it was never boring! But it is absolutely not for everybody. Did I like it? I mean, I was entertained. I'm not sure it was a good movie, but it at least surprised me and wasn't entirely camp. So. I dunno.
Ape V Lizard! Who will win? You, the audience. Stuart and Ryan have a monster of a conversation about the latest installment in the Godzilla and Kong franchises! It's a podcast of epic proportions as we talk about how we got here, what's worked, what hasn't, and head right for the center of the matter. Stop monkeying around and join us as we go nuclear on the most important film you'll see about an axe wielding ape this year!
I'll go ahead and put this out there: this may be the best of the neo-noirs I've seen, and most akin to the original noir movement.
Also: finally watching Body Heat (1981) gives me a big clue as to how neo-noir took a left turn by the late 80's and saw a divergent strain that became the "erotic thriller", which, itself, had several branches on the movie cladogram.
Despite the popular vision of noir, it wasn't always sexy stuff with classy dames showing up in the offices of PI's desperate for help. The movement encompassed a lot of takes on how things can go badly, and how lust could turn things sideways remarkably fast was just one (if a popular) angle. Body Heat delivers a 1980's spin on the Joseph M. Cain flavor of crime melodrama that gave us Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. No detectives here - just guys in over their head when they see a chance at romance with a woman out of their league (but aren't they all).
Meteors fall to Earth, specifically Britain. Scientists are dispatched to check them out - minus an American who just happens to mention having a silver plate in his skull. I *think* the story is that alien brain waves were living inside the rocks? Anyway, the alien psychic waves transfer over to the brains of the science team and build a little fort from which they begin shuttling people to the moon to make more brain transfers with more aliens. And there's a plague?
I fell asleep for part of this movie, but not much, and it's been a week, but I can't really piece it all back together. I do know the heroes wind up wearing goofy helmets and going to the moon where a badly made-up Michael Gough awaits them (wearing a robe, because: alien).
I can't recommend the movie as "good", I can recommend it as "this is whackadoodle". It's Jenifer's selection from last week, so here's her words on the topic.
I will say - the poster promises something the movie absolutely refuses to deliver upon, but I have heard Amicus and Hammer both made the posters first to get financing, and then made the movies. And, somewhere along the way, whatever they had in their heads about folks with sleek helmets, catsuits and space ray flamethrowers got turned into this.
You can't discuss Piranha (1978) without pointing out that it's the first film by director Joe Dante- and is already very Joe Dante. And that it's also written by indie film director and writer John Sayles.
Here in Central Texas, we also always mention "you know, they filmed this partially around San Marcos". But I didn't know the final bit occurred at now-defunct water park Aquarena Springs, which was a feature of summer-time-life for the strip between Austin and San Antonio along I-35 for decades, and then - somewhat inexplicably, went belly up while I was in college as parents decided it was no longer hip, I guess.
But, yeah, the movie is about a skip tracer looking for some kids who went missing (the young lady who played Louisa in Sound of Music), and who winds up pairing up with an alcoholic to learn a mad scientist has been breeding particularly nasty fish in a tank near his house. And, whoops, he and Louisa accidentally release them into the local river that people live on, contains summer camps, etc...
And, of course, this being a horror movie, things go poorly.
The movie includes Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Dick Miller, Paul Bartel, and for some reason, Barbara Steele.
Anyway, it's a lot of fun, the fish make buzz-saw/ bee sounds, and you see some pre-80's Texas.
I've never been a hardcore Tina Turner fan, but like everyone of my generation I am familiar with her work, and have some idea of her pre Private Dancer life through cultural osmosis. The first one of her albums I ever purchased was greatest hits collection, Simply the Best because I *loved* "Simply the Best" as a song, and figured "can't hurt to own the greatest hits". And I have no timeline of how I came to really understand Tina Turner's story. I *do* remember watching the video for "What's Love Got To Do With It?" and my parents sort of watching in amazement that (a) Tina Turner was on MTV and (b) their kids, 9 and 11, were like "this Tina Turner seems cool". And then my folks saying something about a creep of an ex-husband.
And, we lost our minds over how cool she was in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. And she is. Go back and watch it.
I confess, I never had much affinity for biopics - 2 hours is not enough time to show a life, let alone how botched the movies tend to be vis-a-vis actual facts (which are always more interesting than the invention of the movie) - and I wasn't super interested in watching someone dressed up as Tina Turner get beat up for two hours. But hearing about the movie is how I came to understand exactly how bad Ike Turner had been. But I've still never seen What'sLove Got to Do With It.
It seems I'm not alone in this opinion.
Tina (2021) is a roughly two hour doc that uses intervies, original and archival, that charts Tina Turner's course from abandoned child in Nutbush, Tennessee to living in Zurch with her dedicated husband. And it's a goddamn shattering ride. And, as it turns out, possibly Turner's final word on her life to the public.
Justin returns to talk a movie everyone *should* agree on, the gargantuan movie about a very small and polite bear. It bears some discussion what makes it work and what makes it stand out in a crowded field of children and all-ages film. Have a good cry with two grown adults talking about everyone's favorite fellow from darkest Peru.
I have no affinity for The Secret of My Success (1987). I saw it upon its theatrical release in 1987, where I was carded as a 12 year old entering a PG-13 movie. My friend's dad had to come into the box office and tell them it was fine. So, thanks, Mr. P.
I also remember both the seduction of "Brantley" and the immediate revelation he'd been seduced by a distant sorta relative. And the use of Yello's "Oh Yeah".*
And, of course, Helen Slater, who I didn't realize was Helen Slater until college or so. And - the ruse which is the core of the film, which I thought I understood but missed something. But I am here to tell you here in 2021 AD, I do not understand what Brantley was doing.
Until Logan came out a few years back, I'd argue X2: X-Men United (2003) was the *best* X-Men movie, which may be a sign of how quickly I felt the franchise devolved, but it does wonders to build on the original, expand the world, mine the premise for narrative gold, and set us up for both continuing X-Men films and potential Wolverine spin-offs.
Jamie was asking me if the movie was based on stuff from the comics, and while I could definitively say it was, I also don't know exactly when and who wrote them. I didn't get to Uncanny X-Men until around issue 170, with the kind of third incarnation of the X-Men, but - and here's my argument to the Big 2 why you just go ahead and keep on your Chris Claremonts as long as you can - all of the stuff from those stories 50-100 issues prior still had impact in what I was reading years after the fact. The writer knew and remembered the important stuff, and it was woven into the character's lives and informed how they behaved and thought about things. *
Full disclosure: My current role is in IT management at a major American university, and part of my portfolio includes Admissions. I haven't worked for this office very long, just about a year and a half. But I do interface continually with the folks who process, review and make admissions decisions.
If you followed the story of actresses Lori Loughlin or Felicity Huffman as they were exposed and charged with participating in, essentially, a massively scaled bribery scandal in which coaches provided entrance to kids as walk-ons to their teams in exchange for cash, you know the broad strokes of what broke in the news back in 2019.
We're still talking our personal canon, and SimonUK brings a favorite from the UK - and one hell of a film. We talk amazing performances, tight stories, and the real world of late-70's England that informed one of the hallmark films of the gangster genre. Join us for a long chat on a good movie.
Arguably *the* game changer for the entire comic book movie and TV genre - from goofy b-movies with occasional hits to the world we're in today with Justice Leagues, WandaVisions and whatnot everywhere you look, X-Men (2000) arrived on the scene to an excited fanbase who saw a trailer that kinda/ sorta looked like an X-Men comics and seemed to treat the concept of X-Men with some faint degree of dignity.
Now, many will argue that Blade was the kickstarter, and they're right! But the thing about Blade was that it operated way more like a horror movie/ action adventure and less like a superhero flick - and there were maybe a couple thousand people walking around in 1998 who knew anything about Blade. To this day, I have no idea if Blade has any real relation to the comics (and don't care. Blade kicks ass.).
From the late 1970's to the late 1990's, X-Men was a powerhouse franchise all its own, even within the Marvel line of comics. It was more or less like the Game of Thrones of comics - even if you didn't read it, you knew about it, and the gravity well of the comic was massive. In the mid-90's, I guess it was outperforming literally every other thing Marvel comics put out, so they rebooted their entire universe for about - I dunno - 6 months? minus X-Men. Because X-Men was too big, baby!
Gee, why don't the young people want to stay in small towns? How did we get to this divide between rural America and urban America?
I mean, Footloose (1984) is a story that seems ridiculous, about a town where "dancing" was made illegal (something that seems so slippery and un-First Amendment-y that it's breathtaking) and one not-even-rebellious teen who's mere existence as an "outsider" is so problematic adults are out to literally destroy him, that all of this seems absurd. Except that this stuff was very real and happened. Baylor University in Waco, 90 minutes up the road from my house, didn't allow dancing until the late 90's.
So, yeah, small towns where no one was going to do much but stop to fill up with gas actually would and did have goofy rules. This was Satanic Panic time that would culminate in the PMRC and Dee Snider of all people taking down a bunch of crusty representatives looking into literally regulating the music industry. It was also the time of MTV, and I can just see a movie studio exec looking for a story that will appeal to a wide audience - but bring in those kids who like the MTV, and be very music-video-friendly.