The other night I was drinking and, as one does, decided what I really wanted to see was Sydney Greenstreet in a movie. And, of course, it is the holiday season - and what better choice than Christmas in Connecticut (1945) when it comes to your Syndey Greenstreet/ Christmas movie viewing needs.
Basically a classic farce (but only with a hint of the bedroom about it), Christmas in Connecticut gets a lot of play, but seems like it never quite makes it into the zeitgeist like a lot of other films - even if it deserves to more than a lot of modern holiday favorites. Genuinely funny with a terrific set-up and everyone on the same page giving sharp, punchy performances - it's got classic comedy chops to spare.
Stanwyck plays a cooking and homelife columnist for a popular "Good Housekeeping" style magazine. She's essentially posing as America's perfect housewife - complete with husband, child and a picturesque farm house, when she's really living the life of a single-gal in the big city. Fortunately, her uncle if a terrific chef and just tells her how he makes his best dishes, and she adds the purple prose.
But her pushy publisher (Greenstreet) is sent an idea for a promotion - the famous guru should take in a hero sailor (the movie is WWII contemporaneous) and show him true American hospitality. But, of course, she can't do it - so she fakes it.
People are in and out of doors, people hidden from one another, and Una O'Connor plays the domestic not in on the shenanigans. And - while faking a marriage she's actually dodging to a bore of a man (who owns the farm), Stanwyck meets the sailor in question and the smittening is mutual.
It's a terrific film - perfect for a comedy about the holiday that doesn't take it too seriously. And, of course, Sydeny Greenstreet is brilliant. As always.
Today is the birthday of Helen Slater, famous around these parts for playing Kara in Supergirl, as well as Lara on Smallville and Eliza Danvers on the CW show Supergirl. She also starred in The Legend of Billy Jean, City Slickers, Ruthless People, The Secret of My Success, and has appeared in numerous shows, including the final episodes of Mad Men. In addition, she loaned her voice to DC Superhero Girls as Martha Kent and Batman: The Animated Series as Talia al Ghul.
Stuart and Ryan talk the Dickens out of a movie featuring a bunch of felt animals and a CBE for the arts of England. It's got ghosts, a weirdo pretending to be a great author, great sets and a missing song. Maybe not a huge hit when it showed up, it's now a staple of holiday viewing and both very much a Muppet movie and very much a Christmas movie - so it fits the theme for this year.
Sometimes you watch a movie that is so off the rails, the batshit-ness gains its own power.
I *think* I basically get what occurred during Bloodbeat (aka: Blood Beat) (1983), but I am willing to hear any interpretation of events which unfold in the film.
A woman living in rural Wisconsin welcomes home her kids from college for Christmas. Her son has brought his girlfriend, unannounced. NBD, but the mom is also on the skids with her rednecky live-in boyfriend, and she's a painter and psychic. Sort of. And she gets a weird vibe from the girlfriend.
The girlfriend also hits a psychic tripwire upon arriving, so... They all go hunting. The girlfriend does not like.
A samurai ghost shows up when the girlfriend is sexually aroused. And the sister seems unable to get an outfit together that makes any sense.
Anyway - the samurai ghost kills the neighbors who try to put too many things on a waterbed.
There's a psychic battle, stock footage of nuclear blasts, and some light nudity. It all feels like a one off issue of X-Men circa 1984.
I genuinely enjoyed this thing. DIdn't know where it was going from moment to moment, and was both just confusing and concrete enough to stick with for the 90 minute runtime. Not a technical marvel, but it had a certain je ne sais quoi.
There was a time before Mickey Spillane was a name everyone kind of knew, and before Mike Hammer books had been adapted by major studios. I, the Jury is one of the first Hammer books, released in 1947. This poverty row movie adaptation came out in 1953 - and it really isn't like anything else coming out at the time.
Yeah, the acting in this film wasn't going to threaten the usual Oscar contenders, and at first blush, there's a lot of what you might have seen in a Marlowe mystery - but (a) this case starts personal and finishes even more so for our detective, and (b) this detective is going to punch his way through the mystery.
Where Marlowe tries to keep his cool, often over the top of rage whichs pills over, Hammer starts at a ten and goes up from there. When your mystery starts with a dead best friend and you're on the trail through a bunch of weirdos - any of whom could have done it - I guess I can see how you'd be testy.
Star Biff Elliot who plays Hammer is a curious choice. He's not the stringest actor and his decision to go "angry" in every scene means that there's nowhere to go, really. He blasts into the frame the first time we see him, and barges into every room thereafter - so we don't ever really see him in any other state. And anger is an easy go-to for actors, but it's hard to maintain.
The rest of the cast is actually pretty solid. Peggie Castle as a love interest/ psychologist and Margaret Sheridan as Velda are both pretty great. And Frances Osborne - who I'd only seen elsewhere in Murder By Contract - was very good as the mourning girlfriend of the murder victim.
I discussed Spillane's semi-controversial place in crime-fiction, and this movie doesn't do much to dismiss the notion. It's got as gritty a crime and violence angle, adjacent to overt sexuality as anything I can think of from this era - but still coded deeply enough that it was going to fly past the censors. But, man, that ending is something else for the era.
The film was shot by John Alton, who always makes any picture look far better than it has a right to look - and I'd argue this movie had a huge impact on Frank Miller and his Sin City look and feel, from the deep shadow and windy mystery to the cinch in Hammer's raincoat.
Jamie is not averse to noir, but I watch most of these by myself. However, when I pitched her "it's a noir with figure skating as a key component", she was in. She loves her some figure skating.
This is the third Belita-starring film shown on TCM's Noir Alley - and I'd guess the last. She just didn't make many movies, let alone moody crime films. I totally get why Eddie seems to have a soft spot for her - she's not exactly a powerhouse actress, but she does have a certain charm stemming from her own surprise at being in movies.
I'm mostly familiar with the King Brothers - producers on this one - from their movie Gun Crazy, part of my personal canon. This was a follow up, and Monogram (who I mostly think of as having sets that look like high school play sets) upped the budget and talent. Barry Sullivan stars as a hoodlum who lucks his way into a low level job at an ice-capades-type-show, and then parlays that into swiftly moving up the ranks as an ideas man - so they keep the ice show fresh and bring people back.
I mean - his big idea is a sort of oval full of swords that any film masters' student would have a field day figuring the Freudian messaging of, and doesn't seem like something any insurance company would okay - but whatevs. Because Belita actually DOES the jump between the swords.
Anyway, she's the wife of the older, mustachioed boss, and of course she feels an attraction to Barry Sullivan (because the script says to - he's not exactly Mitchum).
Death, gunplay, avalanches, a cute dog and more figure skting figure in. Plus, a scheming ex girlfriend and Eugene Pallette, the best Grumpy Gus in movies.
It wasn't anything earth shattering, but I was pretty okay with it. It can be hard to find a noir that Jamie wants to sit through, and I did it! She was A-OK with this one. But I don't think it will be easy finding more with ice skating.
Definitely a "fun for the whole family" all-ages offering from Disney+, Godmothered (2020) has a semi-complicated set-up that melts into a fairly standard magical comedy, but which I think more or less works, even if it's not exactly ground-breaking.
Apparently Fairy Godmothers come from The Motherland, a mystical realm where fairies train for seemingly centuries before being sent out on assignment. But the trick is - no one has asked for help from a Fairy Godmother in centuries, and there's only really been one new fairy to sign up for the gig in the past few decades. And so - they're maybe going to shut it all down (the Motherland is run by Jane Curtain, who appears to be having fun).