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post #1561 of 1566 Old 06-22-2015, 10:09 AM
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Oliver Reed and Ann-Margaret in one film, IIRC. Nuclear.

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post #1562 of 1566 Old 06-25-2015, 08:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Sullivan's Travels (1941), written and directed by Preston Sturges.

Tired of making fluffy -- but profitable -- musical comedies, a ranting director with delusions of artistic merit wants to break out and try something new. Films with social significance about the big issues: labor and capital, poverty and the plight of the common man during the Great Depression.

He's passionate about things of which he has no experience at all, and decides to send down to wardrobe for a hobo costume so he can hit the road in disguise and share the sufferings of the less fortunate. Everyone tries to talk him out of it.

This is a wild ride, with several distinct acts:

  • The slapstick beginning, which plays like a light Hollywood comedy. He trudges down the road, closely shadowed by a luxury bus holding the studio entourage. He has many comical adventures, but most importantly meets The Girl, a down-and-out actress who will become his girl.
  • In the next part they hop freight trains and bum around together. They see a lot of life and the tone becomes more serious, but still has that movie romance gloss of a man and woman together, bonding through travail. Moonlight on the water. The sort of hard times that will make great stories in later years.
  • An unexpected dark, tragic turn: after being attacked twice he fights back and is sent to a chain gain in the swamp with no way of escape. This is only a few minutes long but in my memory it went on forever. Says he: "This plot needs a twist". Miraculously, he delivers one.
  • Back to Hollywood and comedy, lesson learned: "There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that's all some people have?"

Each act has fine episodes: riding with the hot-rod kid and the sex-starved spinster in the comedy act, for example. In the chain-gain segment there is a lovely scene where the prisoners are hosted by a local black church for movie night. The pastor tells his congregation:

Quote:
And once again, brothers and sisters, we're gonna share our pleasure with some neighbors less fortunate than ourselves. Won't you please clear the first three pews so they may have seats? And when they get here, I'm gonna ask you once more, neither by word nor by action not by look to make our guests feel unwelcome, nor draw away from them or act high-toned. For we is all equal in the sight of God.
This film seems particularly cherished by other movie-makers. You see many visual quotes of it, as in the trick beginning of Stardust Memories (1980) and in O Brother Where Art Thou (2000), which is also the name of the film Sullivan wanted to make.

Joel McCrea and other cast would return for The Palm Beach Story (1942). Veronica Lake has better comic sensibility than I remember seeing before, and also seems to care more about the picture she's in.

Too many quips and in-jokes to catalog. Sullivan's "for tax purposes only" wife is called the "Panther Woman", which must be a reference to Island of Lost Souls (1932).

It's been years since I last saw this, and I remembered nothing except the prison camp. Tragedy leaves more of impression than comedy.

Criterion Blu-ray.



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post #1563 of 1566 Old 06-26-2015, 09:21 AM
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Review older films here: 1979 and earlier

"Hey. ... Am I laughing?" One of my favorite lines, a truly sublime moment.

The Criterion BD is full of nice extras, including an American Masters biopic on Sturges that illustrates his unfortunately short, brilliant career. Sort of a blind (faith) buy at Costco for $19.99 (limited availability), I've seen it before but wasn't sure I loved it enough to buy. It was a good purhase.

Joel McCrea has an interesting quip in the biopic, mentioning that Sturges' long dialog was easy to read, almost musical. An actor's off-the-cuff observation of the results of Sturges' habit of dictating the dialog, of play-acting it all out before production began. He knew what every character in a scene (sometimes more than a dozen having separate conversations amongst each other) was saying (some said they'd see Sturges mouthing the dialog as the camera was rolling). His dialog sparkled like pebbles in a riverbed, so washed, tumbled, and polished each was.

Oh, P.S.: Veronica Lake didn't tell Sturges she was six months pregnant before filming began, so the crew trotted out every trick in the books to disguise her growing baby bump. Some of the shots are amusing when you see what they're doing with her costuming and staging.


The Criterion releases of Palm Beach Story and The Lady Eve also have some nice treats on them, in addition to luminous transfers.
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post #1564 of 1566 Old 06-26-2015, 02:10 PM
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"But with a little sex."



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post #1565 of 1566 Old 06-29-2015, 07:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), directed by Robert Fuest.

You don't get rid of Phibes that easily. When the stars are right he rises again and assisted by the mysterious and mute Vulnavia -- what the heck is she anyway? -- strives to get his dead wife to Egypt where she can be revivified.

It's more or less the same as The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), with comically ghastly murders against an art deco fantasy background. Pretty mild fun these days.

The actress who played Vulnavia in the first film was pregnant and unavailable this time so they brought in Miss Australia.

The photo of Victoria Phibes in both films is the uncredited Caroline Munro:



The desert locations were filmed in Ibiza, Spain.

The wikipedia article has plot summaries of more Dr Phibes sequels which were never made.

Available on Blu-ray.



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post #1566 of 1566 Old Today, 11:55 AM - Thread Starter
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The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976), produced and directed by Herbert Ross.

Sherlock Holmes' cocaine addiction and paranoid obsession with Prof Moriarity have gotten out of hand. Watson lures him to Vienna to enlist the aid of Dr Sigmund Freud, who will help with both problems.

That's the unconventional first half, obviously made by people who take drug abuse and psychotherapy seriously. The rest is a more usual mystery-adventure, culminating with exciting swordplay on the roof of a speeding train. This is the one where they have to dismantle the train cars to stoke the engine.

Nice period detail with lavish interiors and lots of Art Nouveau touches.

Nicol Williamson is not as appealing as other Sherlocks I've seen, but is skillful both in the breakdown and recovery phases of a great, flawed mind.

I wouldn't have pictured Alan Arkin in a costume role but he is a perfect young Freud, brainy and compassionate, brave when the chips are down.

Robert Duvall as Watson is a more curious casting choice. This was before he settled into a standard rough western geezer persona, but his attempt at a plummy British accent is hard to take.

Charles Gray plays Mycroft both here and in the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series. Villain Jeremy Kemp was the villain in "The Speckled Band" episode of that series.

From a book by Nicholas Meyer. There is a post-AC Doyle Holmes genre where the author tries to imitate the original stories as closely as possible, working within the established mythology. Meyers is really good at it: his The West End Horror is another one I enjoyed. I don't remember reading The Canary Trainer.

Available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory.



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